Special Correspondent

Punjab Chief Minister orders procurement operations on a war footing

CHANDIGARH: Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal on Tuesday ordered that procurement operations across the State be put on a war footing while his son Sukhbir Singh Badal, Shiromani Akali Dal president, demanded that the Union Government immediately announce a bonus of Rs.300 per quintal on paddy procurement.

Meanwhile, an official spokesman disclosed that 40.27 lakh tonnes of paddy had arrived in various grain markets. While the government agencies have procured 35.75 lakh tonnes, preliminary estimates indicate that the total procurement may exceed 145 lakh tonnes.

According to the Chief Minister’s Media Adviser Harcharan Bains, Mr. Badal directed State Chief Secretary Ramesh Inder Singh and other senior officials to leave Chandigarh immediately and personally supervise the procurement operation over the next three months. The officers were directed to treat their respective zones as their operational headquarters till procurement was on.

Mr. Badal’s directive follows reports that farmers in the grain markets are facing hardships. Former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, pointing towards ten successful procurement seasons during his tenure, demanded an explanation from the present dispensation.

Meanwhile, through a letter to Union Agriculture and Food Minister Sharad Pawar, the copies of which were released to the media, Mr. Sukhbir Singh reminded that Punjab farmers had laboured to contribute over 30 lakh tonnes extra wheat to the Central reserves as compared to last year, which had ensured food security of the country at a crucial stage.

He lamented that farmers had not been given commensurate returns. “We have demanded a minimum support price of Rs.1400 per quintal to ensure adequate returns to the farmers in view of the rising input costs. I request you to kindly come to the aid of our beleaguered farmers by immediately announcing a bonus of Rs. 300,” he said.

He also asked the Centre to relax the ban on export of non-Basmati rice in view of the bumper paddy crop and adequate buffer foodgrain stocks, adding that the Punjab farmers might be allowed to seek benefit of the high prices in the international market to help mitigate their suffering and usher in rural prosperity.

The Akali Dal president also urged the Union Food Ministry to send a team to Punjab to examine the problem of high moisture content due to late rains in the region.