Thursday, April 24, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

CM concedes farmers’ demands
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 23
As Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, today accepted certain demands of the farmers organisations at a meeting with them, the Bharti Kisan Union (Ekta) called off its three-day-old agitation being held at Matka Chowk here.

A section of the BKU( Ekta) and the Kisan Sabha, a body affiliated to the CPI, did not appear satisfied over the announcement made by the Chief Minister with regard to the acceptance of certain demands. However, all other organisations which participated in the meeting looked happy.

The biggest gain to the government is that the farmers organisations have dropped their major demand for providing free power to the farming sector. Earlier, the BKU headed by Mr Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, and the BKU ( Ekta), headed by Mr Pishora Singh Sidhupur, had been insisting to restore free power to the farming sector. Free power to the farming sector was given by the previous SAD-BJP Government which was withdrawn after the Congress assumed power.

The Chief Minister has exempted pesticides from paying 4 per cent sales tax. The Government was earning about Rs 40 crore as revenue from sales tax on pesticides. Farmers have also been allowed to buy fertilisers from any source. Earlier, it was mandatory for them to buy at least 60 per cent of the fertiliser stock from Markfed. “I overrule the decision of the Finance and Cooperation Minister, Mr Lal Singh, in this connection. Farmers would be free to buy fertilisers from a source of their choice”, the Chief Minister quipped.

The government has ordered a special “girdavari” to assess the damage caused by hailstorms in recent weeks. The charges, taken by the PSEB to allow the farmers to use motors of bigger horse power on tubewells have been slashed to Rs 4000 per horse power from Rs 5200. The defaulting farmers have been allowed to clear their bills by May 15 without penalty.

The Chief Minister also announced a cash relief of Rs 6 lakh for the family that lost six members in lightning a few days ago in Nawanshahr district.

Though, no announcement at the official level has been made, Mr Balbir Singh Rajewal, General Secretary of a faction of the BKU, claimed that the Chief Minister also agreed to bring down the interest on cooperative loans to 9 per cent within two years and to pay the first instalment of Rs 10 which was due as bonus on paddy, by May 15 and the second instalment by July 15. The Chief Minister, he claimed had also promised to exempt diesel and cattlefeed from sales tax. The Chief Minister had also agreed to charge “ abiana” on the actual irrigated area of farmers by canal water.

Commenting on the Chief Minister’s announcement, Mr Bhupinder Sambar, general secretary of the Kisan Sabha, said farmers organisations had come out losers after the meeting. While asking the agitating farmers’ organisations to withdraw their agitation two months ago, Finance Minister Lal Singh, had promised to reduce the power tariff from Rs 60 to Rs 55 per horse power for the farming sector, besides cutting down the horse power enhancing charges on power motors from Rs 5,200 to Rs 2700. Besides, he had also promised to give a 25 per cent rebate on power bills in case defaulting farmers agreed to clear their bills. But the Chief Minister had accepted one demand partially — to cut the horse power enhancing charges from Rs 5200 to Rs 4,000.


Amarinder to participate in farmers’ dharna

Capt Amarinder Singh, said he would participate in the dharna and demonstration to be organised shortly by farmers organisations in Delhi in protest against the freezing of the minimum support price for wheat and discriminating against Punjab in lifting the levy sugar stock from the state’s sugar mills in the past two years. Owing to the non-lifting of sugar stock worth Rs 800 crore, Sugarfed was unable to clear the dues of farmers in Punjab.

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