Members in the Lok Sabha on Friday expressed serious concern over non-procurement of paddy in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and some other States causing serious problems to farmers, with the government saying it would soon convene a meeting of the States concerned to find a solution.

The issue raised by Jagdambika Pal (Cong) generated much heat with SP, RJD and BJP members supporting his contention and SP and RJD members even storming the Well seeking an immediate statement from the government.

Finance Minister P Chidambaram intervened to say that the government would convene a meeting of the affected States to find ways to resolve the problems.

However, this failed to pacify the members who continued to vociferously raise their demands in the Well. Speaker Meira Kumar then adjourned the House till 2 p.m..

Raising the issue during Zero Hour, Mr Pal said the plight of the paddy-growers in Uttar Pradesh was worsening as the procurement agencies were not purchasing their produce. This was forcing farmers to sell to private traders at rates much below the minimum support price (MSP).

Mr Pal’s contention that the procurement agencies were turning farmers away by raising the issue of dampness and moisture in paddy, came in for strong support from SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and his RJD counterpart Lalu Prasad.

The Congress member also said there was a virtual stoppage of the entire procurement in Uttar Pradesh.

“Such a situation has never occurred before. Government should find out whether it is being done by the officers. The Centre is responsible for procurement and it should fulfil that responsibility,” the SP chief said, alleging there was a conspiracy to blame the states ruled by non-Congress parties.

“Middlemen were looting the entire rice crop and the farmers,” said Mr Lalu Prasad.

The RJD chief told the Speaker that similar problems were being faced by farmers even in Bihar, from where she is elected, and urged her to “use your authority to direct the government to take immediate steps to rectify this situation.”

Shahnawaz Hussain (BJP) also tried to raise the issue but could not be heard in the din.

Mr Chidambaram said the members had pointed to various deficiencies in the procurement process that “not enough was being purchased, paddy was being rejected as they were not meeting the standards, there was not enough storage”.

Observing that he would convey these concerns to the minister concerned, he said the Centre would soon convene a meeting of the officials of the affected state governments to find a way to resolve the problems.

Mr Chidambaram said farmers were growing more paddy and offering more to the central pool.

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