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Punjab farmers boycott mandis
Seek bonus on MSP
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Khanna/Sirhind, April 17
Upset with the Central government for failing to announce a bonus on the MSP of Rs 650 per quintal for wheat, farmers across Punjab today began the two-day boycott of mandis.

The wheat procurement in most mandis, including the largest grain market of Asia at Khanna, fell down by over 60 per cent. Leaders of the BKU who had given the call for the boycott, claimed that the protest was successful at Khanna, Samrala, Khumano, Kharar, Kurali, Chamkaur Sahib, Patiala, Nabha, Fazilka, Moga, Jagraon, Sangrur, Faridkot, Bathinda, Mansa, Ferozepore, Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Hoshiarpur and Amritsar.

The BKU(Lakhowal) president, Mr Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, and the BKU(Ekta) president, Mr Pishora Singh, said the boycott was 95 per cent successful in various mandis of Punjab. “In most of the mandis, the procurement fell down by almost 90 per cent. Only the wheat that had been brought to some of the mandis in the wee hours of the morning, before our dharna began, was lifted today. In most mandis, even the auction of wheat did not take place,” they claimed.

During a visit to the mandis, The Tribune team found that activists of the three factions of the BKU led by Mr Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, Mr Balbir Singh Rajewal and Mr Pishora Singh staged a dharna in front of most mandis and urged the farmers not to off-load their produce in the mandis. The gates of the mandis were blocked and the farmers who came with the wheat were asked to go away.

At Khanna, only 20,000 quintal of wheat arrived today, as compared to 90,000 quintal yesterday. On an average, 60,000 quintal of wheat reaches here during the procurement season. Though some farmers entered the mandi via bylanes, the mandi was unusually calm in the wake of the boycott. “The entire wheat stock was bought by private traders,” said Mr Harbans Singh Rosha, president of the Arhtiya Association, Khanna.

At Sirhind, the farmers said while 20 lakh quintal of wheat was being imported at Rs 950 per quintal, they were not even being paid a bonus. “The farmers of the state are under heavy debts. By hiking the MSP, the government should have ensured that they are able to cut even with the rising input costs,” said Mr Manpreet Singh, a farmer from Fatehgarh Sahib.

Mr Avtar Singh Mehlon, a BKU leader, said Punjab had been excluded from the discussions with Chief Ministers of states afflicted by farmer suicides. It was not included in the special package announced for Maharashtra and Kerala. Punjab is not only among the worst affected states on this score, but is also the largest contributor of foodgrain,” he said. 


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