Farmers protest: Centre proposes 5-year plan to buy pulses, maize at MSP

Farmer leaders after a meeting with the ministers had said they would discuss the government's proposal in their forums and thereafter, decide the next course of action.
Farmers listen to a leader at the Punjab-Haryana Shambhu border during their 'Delhi Chalo' protest, near Patiala district.
Farmers listen to a leader at the Punjab-Haryana Shambhu border during their 'Delhi Chalo' protest, near Patiala district.(Photo | PTI)

CHANDIGARH: A panel of three Union ministers has proposed the buying of pulses, maize and cotton crops by government agencies at minimum support prices for five years after entering into an agreement with farmers, Union Minister Piyush Goyal said.

Farmer leaders after a meeting with the ministers here on Sunday had said they will discuss the government's proposal in their forums on Monday and Tuesday, and thereafter, decide the next course of action.

Goyal, the Minister of Commerce and Industry, along with Agriculture and Farmer Welfare Minister Arjun Munda, and Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai held the fourth round of talks with the farmer leaders over their demands, including a legal guarantee for minimum support price (MSP) for crops, as thousands of protesting farmers were camping at the Punjab-Haryana border.

Farmers listen to a leader at the Punjab-Haryana Shambhu border during their 'Delhi Chalo' protest, near Patiala district.
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Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann had also joined the meeting.

Talking to the media after the more than four-hour-long meeting, which commenced at 8.15 pm, Goyal said the "innovative" and "out-of-the-box" idea came up during the discussions and the farmer leaders would decide on the government's proposal by Monday morning.

"Cooperative societies like the NCCF (National Cooperative Consumers Federation) and NAFED (National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India) will enter into a contract with those farmers who grow 'tur dal', 'urad dal', 'masoor dal' or maize for buying their crop at MSP for next five years," said Goyal.

Farmers listen to a leader at the Punjab-Haryana Shambhu border during their 'Delhi Chalo' protest, near Patiala district.
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"There will be no limit on the quantity (purchased) and a portal will be developed for this," he added.

It will save Punjab's farming, improve the groundwater table, and save the land from getting barren which is already under stress, Goyal said.

The farmers pointed out that they want to diversify into maize crops but want to avoid suffering losses when the prices drop below the MSP, he said.

Farmer leader Jagjit Singh Dallewal said discussions on issues such as a law on MSP, the Swaminathan Commission recommendations and loan waivers were held.

On the Centre's proposal, farmer leader Sarwan Singh Pandher said, "We will discuss in our forums on February 19-20 and take the opinion of experts regarding it and accordingly take a decision."

Farmers listen to a leader at the Punjab-Haryana Shambhu border during their 'Delhi Chalo' protest, near Patiala district.
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A discussion on loan waivers and other demands is pending and hope that these will be resolved by Tuesday, Pandher said, adding that the 'Delhi Chalo' march is currently on hold, but will resume at 11 am on February 21 if all the issues are not resolved.

Talking about the steps taken by the Narendra Modi government regarding the farm sector, Goyal said from 2014 to 2024, the government procured crops worth Rs 18 lakh crore at MSP, while between 2004 and 2014, crops worth only Rs 5.50 lakh crore were procured at the assured price.

On the possibility of another meeting with the farmers, Goyal said if they take a decision on Monday, the government will proceed to hold discussions on the same lines as he urged the farmers to call off their protest.

However, he underlined that the other demands of the farmers were "deep and policy-driven" and it was not possible to find a resolution without an in-depth discussion.

"Elections are coming and a new government will be formed. Discussions on such issues will continue," he said.

Farmers listen to a leader at the Punjab-Haryana Shambhu border during their 'Delhi Chalo' protest, near Patiala district.
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Meanwhile, the Punjab chief minister batted for a legal of MSP for crops to safeguard the interests of the farmers.

Mann said he raised the issue of the import of pulses from Mozambique and Columbia during the meeting.

This import is more than USD 2 billion, Mann said, adding that if MSP is given for this crop then Punjab can lead the country in the production of pulses and it will be a second green revolution.

The chief minister also said farmers of the state can adopt cotton and maize only if they get a guarantee for MSP on these crops and stressed that the assured marketing of these crops can encourage the farmers for crop diversification.

Farmers listen to a leader at the Punjab-Haryana Shambhu border during their 'Delhi Chalo' protest, near Patiala district.
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He said he participated in the meeting as an advocate of the farmers and the final decision has to be taken by the stakeholders.

Mann said peace, and law and order must be maintained by all means during the protest.

The farmers from Punjab began their march to Delhi on Tuesday but were stopped by security personnel at Shambhu and Khanauri points on Punjab's border with Haryana as they pressed the Centre to accept their demands.

Farmers listen to a leader at the Punjab-Haryana Shambhu border during their 'Delhi Chalo' protest, near Patiala district.
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Besides, the farmers are also demanding the implementation of the Swaminathan Commission's recommendations, pension for farmers and farm labourers, farm debt waiver, no hike in electricity tariff, withdrawal of police cases and "justice" for the victims of the 2021 Lakhimpur Kheri violence, reinstatement of the Land Acquisition Act, 2013, and compensation to the families of the farmers who died during a previous agitation in 2020-21.

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