Plans farmers' rally in New Delhi to highlight trade-related issues in agriculture

Close on the heels of the postponement of Wednesday's meeting of the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) on Food, which was to have decided on exports of farm commodities, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) — a United Progressive Alliance ally — declared that it will organise a farmers' rally at Jantar Mantar here on May 16 to highlight trade-related issues in agriculture.

This is the second UPA ally which has come out in the open against UPA policies after the Trinamool Congress, which opposed some of the provisions of the National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) as undermining federalism.

“Farmers are not getting the price for their produce domestically,” NCP spokesman and Rajya Sabha MP D.P. Tripathi said. “So let them earn through exports.”

He said the rally will seek removal of the ban on exports of farm commodities in the wake of record production of rice, wheat and cotton.

At the same time, it will call for a higher minimum support price for wheat, rice, edible oils, cotton and pulses “so that the farmers get their due.”

“We do not want any further increase in the prices of fertilizers, power, diesel which are crucial inputs for farmers,” he added.

The NCP's decision came on a day when party president Sharad Pawar had a meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi. He had in the past raised the question of allies not being consulted on policy issues.

The meeting assumes significance in the wake of Mr. Pawar calling for an “agreed” candidate for presidential polls for which, he had said, the UPA leadership should initiate a high-level dialogue.

Last week, Mr. Pawar wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the hurdles to export of cotton, sugar and milk faced by farmers. The concerned Ministries were neither taking decisions nor implementing the decisions already taken, he had said.

The EGoM, headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee was to have taken a decision on sugar and cotton exports but the meeting got postponed. It was also to have considered proposals on making an additional allocation of wheat for the below the poverty line population.

In response to Mr. Pawar's letter, the Prime Minister has convened a meeting with the concerned Ministers for May 30.

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