Farmers at loggerheads with Centre over wheat MSP

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Chandigarh, Apr 7 (UNI) The farmer unions in Punjab and Haryana today locked horns with the Centre over the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for wheat with the Union Minister for Agriculture Sharad Pawar today indicating here that the MSP would remain at Rs 1000 per quintal while the unions declared that the farmers would ''stock'' product unless they get about Rs 1700 per quintal.

On the occasion of Mr Pawar's visit here today to discuss the wheat procurement for the Central pool, various factions of Bharti Kisan Union active in the region stressed that unless the MSP was equivalent to global price of around Rs 1700, thousands of debt-bound farmers in the region would not be ''able to sell their product to the governent procurement agencies.'' Meanwhile, Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and the Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal have also demanded a hike in the MSP and urged the Centre to link it with the consumer price index.

''It is a matter of survival for the farmers and it was better that they keep their product at home than sell it for Rs 1000 MSP,'' said BKU (Lakhowal) chief Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, who is also the chairman of Punjab Mandi Board.

Taking a similar tough stance, BKU (Rajewal) also declared that its meber farmers would not sell the wheat untill the MSP was hiked to Rs 1720 per quintal as the wheat production had already been hit by extreme cold, mealy and aphid bugs and recent untimely hail and rainstorms.

Taking strong exception to the Centre's failure to announce an increase in the MSP under such circumstances, BKU (R) General Secretary Omkar Singh Jagawal said here that instead of announcing Rs 60 crore debt relief package, which would only help a miniscule section, the Centre should just ensure that the cash-strapped farmers were given the ''due price for their product''.

Mr Jagawal also lashed out at the Centre for failing to implement the Swaminathan Committee's recommendation to extend 50 per cent profit to farmers on the production costs.

He also demanded that the subsidy on fertilisers, irrigation and pesticides etc should be directly paid to the farmers. ''It would save them Rs 5000 per acre,'' he said.

The BKU (R) also exhorted the farmers to ''stop re-payment of their debts as the government itself was helping only those who were chronic defaulters.'' UNI XC JN JS1815

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