Centre offers contract-based assured buying on MSP for five crops; farmers to get back today

Union Minister Piyush Goyal says the meeting was held cordially in a positive direction.

February 18, 2024 10:26 pm | Updated February 19, 2024 07:09 am IST - CHANDIGARH

Farmer leaders pose for photos before a meeting with Union Ministers amid their ongoing protest over various demands, including a legal guarantee of minimum support price (MSP) for crops, in Chandigarh, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024.

Farmer leaders pose for photos before a meeting with Union Ministers amid their ongoing protest over various demands, including a legal guarantee of minimum support price (MSP) for crops, in Chandigarh, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024. | Photo Credit: PTI

The fourth meeting between Union Ministers and farmer representatives to deliberate on their demands, including a legal guarantee for minimum support price on crops, remained inconclusive on late Sunday.

However, the meeting moved in a ‘positive’ direction as the government proposed to give a guarantee on procuring of five crops on Minimum Support Price (MSP).

After the meeting, Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal said the meeting was held cordially in a positive direction with new ideas surrounding how to take the work done in farmers’ interest in the last 10 years to be taken forward.

“Discussions were held on farmers demands and we have presented a road map. Farmer representatives brought forward some topics and in them barring three-four issues, a consensus appeared to be emerging on the rest of the issues with innovative thinking that would help farmers of Haryana, Punjab, and rest of the country,” he said.

“A proposal was discussed in which the government agencies like NCCF and NAFED will get into a contract and buy produce pulses - arhar, tur and urad, and corn from the farmers on MSP. There will be no limit on the quantity. Similarly, we proposed that the Cotton Corporation of India will enter 5-year agreement with farmers to buy cotton crops at MSP. We believe that cotton should be revived in Punjab.

Farmers to respond to Centre’s proposals today

Farmer leaders said they will get back by today (Monday) on the proposals. “We hope farmers will come with a positive reply by Monday. The next round of meeting could be then held. I urge farmers to call off their protest,” he said.

Replying on a pointed question of giving a legal guarantee for MSP on crops, Mr. Goyal said “There are some issues which are policy matters and need time and wider consultations. The general elections are nearing so on such issues deliberations would continue.”

Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Singh said that farmers of the state can adopt cotton and maize only if they get the MSP. He said that the assured marketing of these crops can encourage the farmers to crop diversification. Bhagwant Singh Mann said that detailed discussions were held on this topic and the guarantee was sought in this regard adding that an agreement for the purchase of these crops should be made. This, he said will help give a major push to crop diversification in the country. The Chief Minister said that the mobile internet services in around five districts of the state have been suspended, which is adversely affecting the studies of the students. He said that these days exams are going on and online study is being done but the suspension of internet services is highly condemnable.

Meanwhile, protesting farmers from Punjab continued to camp near the inter-State boundary with Haryana.

Union Ministers Arjun Munda, Piyush Goyal and Nityanand Rai and farmer leaders Jagjit Singh Dallewal and Sarwan Singh Pandher are attending the meeting among others. Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann is also attending the meeting

The three meetings held earlier had been inconclusive.

Farmers from Punjab have been camping on two stretches – Shambhu-Ambala and Khanauri-Jind – on the inter-State boundary between Haryana and Punjab, since February 13 as their ‘Delhi Chalo’ march was stopped from entering Haryana amid elaborate security arrangements with multi-layer barricades.

The Kisan Mazdoor Morcha and the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha (Non-Political) — the two umbrella bodies of around 200 farmers’ and farm labourer unions — had given the call for the ‘Delhi Chalo’ march as they planned to lay siege to the national capital to press for the fulfilment of their demands.

‘Growing support’

The protest has started to draw support from other farmer outfits and ‘khap’ panchayats as well. The Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), the umbrella body of farmer unions that spearheaded the 2020-21 farmers’ protests against the Centre’s farm laws, as well as the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan), one of the largest outfits in Punjab, announced that they would hold day-and-night protests and demonstrations in front of the residences of BJP MPs, Ministers and MLAs in the State from February 20 to 22, and make all toll plazas “free” in support of the farmers’ demands.

The decision was taken in a meeting held in Ludhiana. The representatives of 34 organisations of the SKM (Punjab) out of 37 attended the meeting. The representatives of BKU (Ugrahan) also attended the meeting.

In Haryana, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Charuni) president Gurnam Singh said it held a meeting with different farmer outfits and ‘khap’ panchayats, and it was decided that a strategy would be finalised depending on the outcome of the meeting between the Centre and the farm leaders.

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