The Centre on Thursday postponed the paddy procurement in Punjab and Haryana till October 11 “over delayed crop maturity due to recent heavy rains”, sparking an immediate unrest among farmers in the two agrarian states and chief minster of one urging Prime Minister Narendra Modi to interven to get the process started from October 1.
Paddy procurement for 2021-22 kharif marketing season in Punjab was to commence from October 1, while in Haryana it officially started from September 25.
The Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution on Thursday postponed paddy procurement in Punjab and Haryana due to “heavy rainfall.” But farmers unions in the state are up in arms and said that if the government will not roll back its decision then they will start a protest in the state itself. They said that the heavy downpour took place in a large area but there are still many areas untouched by this rain and paddy is almost ready to harvest there.
In a statement, the Union Union Food Ministry said: “It has been reported that due to recent heavy downpour in Punjab and Haryana, the maturity of paddy has been delayed. Keeping in view the interest of farmers and to avoid any inconvenience to them, the Department of Food and Public Distribution under Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution has decided that the procurement of Paddy under MSP would commence from 11th October 2021 in states of Punjab & Haryana”.
It directed all the agencies to undertake procurement from October 11 in the two states.
Reacting to the statement, Haryana BKU president Gurnam Singh Chaduni announced that farmers will start laying siege to the residences of all ruling BJP and JJP leaders in state from October 2 if procurement doesn’t begin from October 1.
In a video message to the farmers, Chaduni said: “Brothers, wait for a day only. If the procurement doesn’t take place from October 1, start gherao of BJP leaders from October 2. Go to their homes with paddy loaded tractor-trolleys.”
The farm leader said that they can’t see farmers being displaced and ruined and added that “we will gherao the homes of leaders of BJP JJP in a way that even their dogs won’t be able to move out”.
He said the government advises farmers to start sowing paddy from June 15. “The crop gets ready for harvesting by September 15. The paddy has already arrived in the mandis in large quantities,” Chaduni said, adding farmers should not be harassed at a time when many of them have already suffered losses, both in farms and at mandis, due to adverse weather conditions.
Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi urged PM Modi to personally intervene and direct the Union Food Ministry to withdraw its letter so that paddy procurement could begin from October 1. Channi said Punjab was all set to start the procurement process “and now these instructions will unnecessarily create confusion and uncertainty in the minds of farmers, who will start bringing their crops in various Mandis across the state from tomorrow (October 1)”. He said the decision to postpone the procurement at the eleventh hour would further lead to resentment amongst the farmers, who were already agitating against the three central farm laws.
Meanwhile, Jagmohan Singh, general secretary, BKU (Dakuanda) termed the Centre’s move as anti-farmer. He said the procurement was never postponed earlier despite the fact that state often witnesses rain till first week of October.
“Officially, the monsoon period ends by September 30 but there have been instances when heavy downpour was witnessed during entire first week of October. But the procurment process was never postponed as the farmers themselves waited for the crop to get dry before harvesting and then bringing it to the mandis,” said Jagmohan Singh.
He said the farmers will start an agitation if the government does not start the procurement on October 1 as the “11-day delay is too long and farmers cannot store the harvested paddy at their home”.
Last year despite the lockdown induced by Covid-19, the paddy procurement had started from September 27 in Punjab.
Another farmer leader, Stanam Singh Sahni of BKU Doaba, said, “We will take up this matter with the other farm unions and chalk out our programme because postponement pf procurement will lead to a glut like situation in the mandis.”
Punjab and Haryana are very crucial states for paddy procurement. In the KMS 2020-21, 135.89 lakh metric tonnes was procured from Punjab, while the figure stood at 37.89 LMT for Haryana.
The Centre has fixed minimum support price (MSP) of Rs 1,960 per quintal for grade ‘A’ paddy and Rs 1,940 per quintal for common grade paddy for 2021-22 KMS.