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Badal asks PM to relax paddy procurement norms

Chandigarh, Oct 24 (IANS) Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal Sunday warned the central government that the state farmers’ resentment might erupt into anger if the quality specifications of paddy were not relaxed during the ongoing procurement process.

‘We need to come to the aid of the beleaguered farmer who sweats and toils for the nation. The farmer has stood by the country in its hour of food crisis. Now, it’s the turn of the country’s government to stand by the self-effacing farmer,’ Badal said in a statement here.

Seeking the direct intervention of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Badal said the state’s farmers were agitated at the procurement agencies, and failure to take immediate remedial action could lead to a serious law and order problem.

The centre must keep in mind that the paddy has been affected by reasons beyond the control of farmers, Badal said.

Heavy rains in September, when paddy is normally dried for harvesting, led to higher moisture content and discoloration of the crop. He added that thundershowers across Punjab Oct 22 have further aggravated the situation as dried paddy lay at grain markets exposed to rain.

In letters to the Prime Minister and union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Badal said that the moisture specification should be increased from 17 to 20 per cent and discoloration requirement to 10 per cent. He added that the rice outturn ratio be decreased from 67 to 60 per cent.

With another bumper crop of paddy this season, Punjab has already procured over 6.5 million (65 lakh) tonnes since the procurement started Oct 1.

Five procurement agencies of the Punjab government and the centre’s Food Corporation of India (FCI) are engaged in the procurement process at 1,710 centres across Punjab.

Badal also said that up to five million tonnes of PUSA-44 variety of paddy, sown in over 700,000 hectares of the state, has started arriving in grain markets and norms should be relaxed immediately.

Badal earlier slammed the central government for ‘an inadequate hike’ of Rs.20 per quintal in the minimum support price (MSP) of wheat, fixed at Rs.1,120 per quintal.

Describing it as ‘a stab in the back of the farmer community’, Badal Oct 21 demanded that the MSP for wheat should be at least Rs.1,400 per quintal.

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