Centre backs down after farmers’ protests against delay in paddy procurement; process to commence tomorrow

Centre had postponed procurement of kharif paddy in Punjab and Haryana till October 11 saying crop maturity had been delayed and moisture content in fresh arrivals was beyond permissible limits

Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: Social Media)
Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: Social Media)

Bipin Bhardwaj

On Gandhi Jayanti, farmers across Punjab and Haryana held protests at various places against the postponement of paddy procurement by the Central government.

Members of various farmers’ units, on the call of Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), staged protests and raised slogans against the NDA government. The SKM on Friday had given a call for holding protests outside the residences of legislators in both states to register their protest over the delay in purchasing paddy crops.

At many places, the agitators indulged in arguments and scuffles with police personnel while heading toward the residences of different leaders in both states.

Following the developments, Union Minister of State for Food Paddy Ashwini Choubey announced that millet procurement in Haryana and Punjab will start tomorrow. This followed a meeting he held in Delhi with Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar and his deputy, Dushyant Chautala.

"As per decision taken, the Haryana has government has assured that paddy procurement will start from tomorrow (Sunday). They have made everything ready. Procurement in Punjab is already in process... from tomorrow both states will begin buying," he said.

Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi, who met PM Narendra Modi in Delhi on Friday, had urged him for early commencement of paddy procurement.

The Union government on Thursday had postponed procurement of kharif paddy in Punjab and Haryana till October 11 saying crop maturity had been delayed and moisture content in fresh arrivals is beyond permissible limits owing to recent heavy rains. The paddy procurement process usually commences from October 1 ever year.

The procurement operation is undertaken by the Central government's nodal agency Food Corporation of India (FCI) along with state agencies.

Earlier in the day, the police used force on farmers driving their tractors breaking the barricades on the Chandigarh-Shimla Highway in Surajpur near Panchkula this morning. The irate farmers were heading to Panchkula to gherao Haryana Speaker Gian Chand Gupta’s house. The police have also detained some protesters in this connection

Meanwhile, Haryana minister Anil Vij on Saturday said the farmers' agitation against the Centre's new laws is getting “violent day by day”.

“Farmers' agitation is getting violent day by day. Violent movement in the country of Mahatma Gandhi cannot be allowed….,” said Vij in a tweet.

In Punjab, farmers gathered outside the residences of several Congress legislators, including Punjab Vidhan Sabha Speaker Rana KP Singh in Rupnagar and MLA Harjot Kamal in Moga and staged protests over delay in the purchase of paddy crop. Police personnel were deployed in strength to maintain law and order, said officials.

The farmers were apprehensive that they would suffer if their crops were not purchased at the grain markets. The paddy crop has started arriving in mandis in border areas of Punjab, the farmers said.

Farmers in Karnal had lamented that their paddy crop would get damaged by October 11 when the Centre would start procurement.

In Ambala, police put up barricades to prevent farmers from laying siege to the residence of BJP legislator Aseem Goel. Fire-fighting vehicles and water cannons were also deployed outside the residences of the MLAs and other prominent leaders across the state.

Tight security arrangements were made outside the residences of Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar in Karnal and Anil Vij at Ambala Cantonment, a police official disclosed.

Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Minister of Punjab Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa has instructed the police not to allow ‘illegal’ import of rice and paddy from other states to Punjab.

Randhawa cautioned all SSPs to put nakas at all main roads and link roads day and night and strictly check vehicles to stop the inflow of rice/ paddy through the borders of the adjoining states of Punjab.

He also wrote to the Principal Secretary, Home, and DGP and told them to deploy additional police personnel in the districts by Saturday evening to check the illegal flow of rice or paddy from other states.

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