Sunday, October 8, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Farmers gherao Central team
Stop train movement for second day

From Tribune Reporters

BATHINDA, Oct 7 Agitated activists of the Bharti Kisan Union (EKTA) today gheraoed the central team, comprising senior officials of the government and specialists of the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) which was here to collect paddy samples for the centre to form a new paddy procurement policy.

The activists did not allow the members of the team to move for about three hours near Kalyan Malka village in protest against the current paddy procurement policy of the government.

The central government had sent the team to Punjab after the meeting of Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Chief Minister of Punjab, with Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, Prime Minister of India, in which the issue regarding the paddy procurement was discussed.

Mr Visra Lingam, Director Food and team member, said they had to collect about 25 samples of paddy from various mandis of Punjab and submit the report to the Central government on October 8 by 3 p.m. The team visited mandis of Goniana, Nathana and Bathinda.

The gherao of the team was called off only when Mr Jaspal Singh, Deputy Commissioner assured the farmers of the paddy procurement and about 23,000 bags were purchased by the FCI. The authorities had not procured paddy for the past five days.

Meanwhile, the activists did not allow rail movement on the Bathinda-Ambala route for the second day today. Neither did any goods or passenger train arrived at Bathinda railway station, nor did the trains depart from this junction. This hit the commuters.

MALERKOTLA: Farmers today blocked traffic in different parts of the subdivision in protest against the slow procurement of paddy and the policies of central government.

Traffic was also blocked at village Bhasour and Binjoki for three hours by Punjab Kisan Sabha activists to protest against the tough specifications with regard to purchase of paddy. Farmers said that only 25 per cent of the paddy was being purchased by private agencies for Rs 400 to Rs 470 per quintal against the fixed price of Rs 540.

RAMPURAPHUL: Agitated and harassed over the non-procurement of paddy by the government procurement agencies, a large number of paddy growers, including women, blocked the rail track at the railway level crossing on the Bathinda-Dhuri section here today for the second day.

The farmers, on the call of Bharti Kisan Union (EKTA), started a dharna and blockade of the rail track. They said the blockade would continue till 75 per cent of the paddy, lying in the grain markets and procurement centres, is procured.

It has affected the rail services on the Bathinda-Dhuri and Bathinda-Sangrur routes as the farmers have also blocked the traffic by parking tractor-trailers on both sides of the railway level-crossing on this route. The vehicular traffic is now passing through alternative routes via link roads.

It has forced the Railway authorities to either cancel the trains or terminate them midway during the past more than 24 hours. As many as 12 mail and passenger trains, which daily ply on Bathinda-Dhuri section, have not run on this track since yesterday.

Mr Jaspal Singh, DC, Mr Jatinder Jain, SSP, and the DM, FCI Bathinda, last night met the BKU (EKTA) leaders to resolve the issue, but their talks failed.


Haryana bans Punjab paddy
From Sushil Manav

FATEHABAD, Oct 7 A complete ban has been imposed on the arrival of paddy crop here from the neighbouring areas of Punjab. The district administration has erected barriers on roads leading to Punjab villages and special care is being taken to ensure that paddy crop from Punjab does not sneak into the grain markets and purchase centres of this district.

The step follows direction by the state Chief Minister, Mr Om Prakash Chautala, that the state government would facilitate the purchase of the produce of Haryana farmers only and paddy from other states would be accepted only if there was any need after that.

Lack of space to store rice with the FCI, apprehensions in the minds of millers regarding the levy policy and a bumper crop this year are causing problems for the farmers coming to the mandis with their paddy. Though the government agencies have been procuring paddy from 11 a.m. till 6.30 p.m. daily, this is not enough to mitigate the problems of farmers.

Farmers allege that the agencies have been adopting an indifferent attitude towards their woes and are too selective. They refuse to purchase three out of the every four heaps on one pretext or the other.

Some farmers told this correspondent in the Fatehabad grain market today that they had been sitting in the market for the past 6 to 9 days waiting for the purchase of their crop. They alleged that officials demanded their pound of flesh before accepting paddy. The allegation is, however, denied by the agencies.

The problems of the farmers whose lot is rejected by the agencies due to it being below specification, is compounded by the fact that even private millers and dealers are not so enthusiastic in purchasing paddy this time. The millers are apprehensive due to non-clarity of the levy policy of the FCI. Lack of storage facility available with the FCI is also causing doubts in their minds.

However, according to official figures 44,752 metric tonnes of paddy had arrived in six grain markets and 25 purchase centres of the district till today and 80 per cent of this i.e. 35,587 MT had been procured by the government agencies. The private dealers had purchased only 9165 MT, which is merely 20 pc of the total arrival.

The Deputy Commissioner, Mr Anil Malik told this correspondent that the FCI has storage facility for 8,000 MT of rice and space for another 32,000 MT would be created as 14 special trains would lift paddy this month. This, he said, would be enough to meet the demand.

He said he had convene a meeting of the millers and agencies on Sunday and the bottlenecks, if any, would be removed. He said the interests of the farmers were of paramount importance to the administration. He said he was keeping a close watch on the procurement exercise.

Meanwhile, Mr. S.S. Dhillon, IAS, Managing Director of the Haryana Tourism Development Corporation, who has been deputed by the state government to inspect the procurement activities, visited Fatehabad yesterday. He inspected procurement operation in Fatehabad, Rattia, Ahrwan and Bora grain markets of this district. Mr Dhillon talked to the farmers and listened to their complaints. He told them that the government agencies had been directed by the state government to ensure maximum procurement through them. He said the agencies were helpless when the crop did not conform to the specification laid by the government.

CHANDIGARH: The Haryana Government on Saturday claimed that its various paddy procuring agencies had procured 53 per cent of the total arrival of leviable paddy till yesterday.

An official spokesman said it was an all-time high record. Haryana contributed 4,504 metric tonnes of rice to the Central pool till yesterday as against 480 metric tonnes during the corresponding period last year.

He said 4,86,769 metric tonnes of paddy arrived in the state mandis till yesterday. Our of this, the state agencies had procured 2,49,683 metric tonnes at the minimum support price, while 2,37,086 metric tonnes had been procured by private millers of the state.

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