Chandigarh: Farmers’ unions from Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh revived their demand for a law on guaranteed minimum support price (MSP) for their crops, as they gathered in huge numbers at MSP Dilao, Kisan Bachao (Provide MSP to save farmers) Mahapanchayat at Pipli grain market in Haryana’s Kurukshetra district here on Monday, June 12.
Mahapanchayat was called by Bharatiya Kisan Union (Charuni) faction in the wake of their ongoing agitation to press state authorities for procurement of sunflower seeds at MSP. For the second in a week, Haryana farmers on Monday blocked a national highway to Delhi. The farmers’ union took this decision at a ‘Mahapanchayat’ held in Kurukshetra district’s Pipli village on Monday. Traffic from the blocked highway has been diverted to avoid congestion, NDTV reported.
As of Monday night, farmers continue to block the highway after talks between protesters and local administration failed to reach any conclusion.
Last week too, the Charuni group held a massive protest, leading to the arrest of its chief Gurnam Singh Charuni, and eight others following a massive lathi-charge by Haryana police on protesting farmers.
After Mahapanchayat, Charuni faction members along with a large assembly of farmers marched to the main Delhi-Chandigarh highway (National Highway 44), not far from their protest site in Pipli Grain market, and blocked it for several hours in order to press the Haryana government for their demand.
While the highway protest has not been lifted yet, the event, attended by popular faces of the 2020 farm protest movement including Rakesh Tikait, Balbir Singh Rajewal, Surjeet Singh Phul and other members of Sanyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) recharged farmers to seek permanent law on MSP.
Phul told the media that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre had given in writing that it would form a committee to enact a law on MSP. But it has never been implemented.
“Now the time has come for Delhi-like farmer protest for our pending demand so that farmers are not forced time and again to come on the street to seek their rights,” said Phul.
Tikait, who also joined the protesters at the highway protest, also told the gathering during Mahapanchayat that the Centre had ditched farmers by not enacting a law on MSP.
“Unless a law is not enacted in the country, the struggle of the farmers to get the adequate value of their crops will not end,” he said.
Later on Haryana farmers’ protest, Tikait also said that farmers would not lift the highway unless the state government starts sunflower procurement and also release the members of BKU (Chaduni) arrested last week on June 6.
“This is the first time in history that the police cane-charged farmers for demanding the MSP announced by the government,” said Tikait.
What is the Haryana issue?
In Haryana, Kurukshetra, Ambala, and part of Panchkula mainly grow sunflowers.
The crop area is on the rise ever since the BJP government at the state assured farmers of full crop procurement as part of its crop diversification plan in 2018.
Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar in 2018 held the Surajmukhi Dhan Kisan Dhanyawad Rally in which he claimed that his government had decided to procure the entire crop of sunflower seeds as a permanent policy as part of the state’s crop diversification plan.
As a result, the sunflower area which in 2018-19 was sown on 9,440 hectares increased to 14,160 hectares in the 2022-23 crop year, as per government data.
Over the years, farmers were realising MSP-based procurement. However this year state agencies did not come for procurement, leaving farmers to get exploited by traders.
Farmers have been claiming in this Mahapanchayat that this year they were not releasing more than Rs 4000-Rs 4200 per quintal for their sunflower crop against Rs 6,400 per quintal MSP announced by Centre in 2022-23
Sensing trouble after last week’s protest, the Khattar government announced relief to the sunflower farmers by giving Rs 1,000 per quintal under Bhavantar Bharpayee Yojana, a government scheme to compensate for the low price of their produce in the market.
However, farmers claimed that despite additional state government compensation, an overall realisation of the price was still below MSP, which made them hold a mahapanchayat on Monday to seek full MSP for their crop.
Opposition parties in Haryana too have lashed out at the BJP, alleging that the BJP-led government has ignored farmers in the state, which otherwise are an important vote bank.
Leader of the Opposition Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) leader and former CM Om Prakash Chautala, and INLD’s Abhay Singh Chautala all were united in condemning last week’s police action on the Charuni group as well as arrest of their leaders
The leaders of Jannayak Janta Party (JJP), which is currently in alliance with BJP in Haryana, too condemned the police action.
On June 8, Jannayak Janta Party MLA Ram Karan Kala from Shahbad, a constituency in Kurukshetra district, stepped down as Haryana Sugarfed chairman after the BJP-JJP alliance government did not consider his demands to release the detained farmers, procure sunflower seeds at the MSP and compensate protesters injured in police lathi-charge.
This article, first published at 5:41 pm on June 12, was updated and republished at 9:10 pm on the same day with additional details. It was further updated at 10:50 pm on the same day.