New Delhi, Apr 20 (UNI) Akali Dal(Amritsar) president Simranjit Singh Mann, leading his party's leaders, today met Agriculture and Food Minister Sharad Pawar, seeking hike in Minimum Support Price (MSP) of wheat from the present Rs 650 per quintal to Rs 900 per quintal as price of inputs have skyrocketted resulting in heavy indebtedness of farmers in Punjab and elsewhere.
During his 40-minute meeting with the minister, Mr Mann said price of inputs had gone up by 22 times since 1966-67, while that of agricultural produce had increased by 11 times-one of the main reason because of which the quantum of loan against Punjab farmers had gone up to Rs 24,000 crore against Rs 5,000-6,000 crore a decade ago.
The MSP of wheat, paddy and sugarcane was fixed at Rs 76, Rs 53 and Rs 16 per quintal in 1966-67, which has not increased to Rs 650, Rs 590 and Rs 100 per quintal after 40 years now, nearly 10 to 11 times.
But during this period, value of a tractor has shot up from Rs 20,000 to Rs 3,50,000 (a unit) and that of fertilizer (50 kg of urea) from Rs 22 to Rs 245 and diesel from Rs 60 paise a litre to Rs 25 a litre -- an increase of 22 times or so.
The Akali leader said the loans of farmers should be waived off as they would not be able to pay back as the British government in India did in 1930s. As many as 13,000 farmers had already committed suicide in the state because of abnormal interest rates charged by arhtiyas (commission agents) and private lenders.
The Punjab government is acquiring 376 acres of land near Barnala for setting up a sugar mill, when the state-run six cooperative sugar mills are already on the verge of closure. ''Why had not the state government handed over the site of one sick sugar mill to the Trident Group of Industries, if it was hell bent on helping an industrial house'', said Mr Mann in a memorandum submitted to Mr Pawar.
His party's Kisan Wing President Satnam Singh Bahru said the way of acquiring land from the small and marginal farmers was totally illogical and unjustified as the state government had robbed the farmers of their source of livelihood, without ensuring some alternative jobs to them.
The delegation also demanded that Punjab farmers be permitted to buy agricultural land by Rajasthan government there, removing the restrictions on the movement of farm produce between India and Pakistan at Wagah border point and handing over the control of river headworks to Punjab.
UNI JSS AD RS1628