Sunday, September 29, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

SAD seeks bonus, revision of MSP
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 28
In a desperate attempt to assuage the disappointment of his constituents, Shiromani Akali Dal chief and former Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today urged Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to revise the MSP for paddy and announce a bonus of Rs 50 per quintal for the current season.

Simultaneously, Mr Badal has spoken to Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu over the telephone and the three leaders are expected to jointly meet the Prime Minister on Monday to press their case for higher MSP for paddy coupled with additional relief in the form of bonus.

Mr Badal said the Chief Ministers of Haryana and Andhra Pradesh had agreed to take up the cause of the farmers unitedly so that the genuine case of paddy growers did not go by default. The SAD President also spoke to Union Agriculture Minister Ajit Singh on the imperative need to increase the MSP for paddy.

In a statement here, Mr Badal hoped the Centre would not let the farmers down and announce some assistance expeditiously for paddy growers. He emphasised that even though the SAD was not at the helm of affairs in Punjab, it would not shirk its primary responsibility towards the farmers of the state.

ďAlready we have presented the case of Punjab farmers before the Central leaders. It would have been ideal if the state government, despite its political differences with us, had not stood on prestige and worked in unison with other political parties to safeguard the interests of Punjab. But now that the Punjab Government has left the farmers in the lurch after staging a gimmick, we will still persist with our efforts in this direction,Ē Mr Badal observed.

The joint memorandum to be submitted to the Prime Minister by Mr Badal, Mr Chautala and Mr Naidu focuses on the steep increase in agricultural inputs over the past few years. This encompasses petroleum products, fertilisers, pesticides and farm labour. To compound problems, the water table has gone down 3 mt to 15 mt and the discharge from tubewells has reduced considerably.

As a result of all this, farmers had to spend huge amounts on deepening and reboring tubewells and installing new units.

The memorandum stresses that the farmerís loss is in fact the nationís loss. Anything that impinges on the growth and healthy sustenance of farm economy is bound to have a destabilising and spiralling effect on the entire economy.

The memorandumís five-point demands are:

(A) The MSP for paddy must be suitably incrased;

(B) Bonus of Rs 50 per quintal for paddy be announced at the earliest;

(C) Quality specifications be relaxed;

(D) For a permanent solution, MSP should be linked to the general price index; and

(E) The Centre should announce a comprehensive economic package of compensation for drought-hit farmers.

Meanwhile, Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa said the Centre was seized of the farmers problems in Punjab. He said Mr Vajpayee was inclined to give the farmers concrete help in their hour of need. He said the issue of providing bonus would be considered at the next meeting of the Union Cabinet.

Mr Dhindsa regretted that even on issues pertaining to the people of Punjab, the government in Chandigarh always gave the impression of letting political considerations cloud their actions.

He pointed out that he had to write at least three letters to the Capt Amarinder Singh government pertaining to the drought-hit farmers of Punjab. The state government got back to him only on one occasion. Mr Dhindsa had earlier spoken to the MPs of various political parties from Punjab to evolve a common strategy on the issues affecting the people of the state.

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