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Haryana farmers end NH-44 blockade after Khattar govt accepts demand for MSP for sunflower crop

Chandigarh: Following the farmers’ second blockade of NH-44 within a week over their demand for minimum support price (MSP) for their sunflower crop, the Haryana government Tuesday relented and agreed to fulfill their demand — providing a price equivalent to the MSP under its Bhavantar Bharpayee Yojana. Additionally, they agreed to release the leaders who were arrested after the highway blockade at Shahbad on 6 June.

Shortly after Kurukshetra Deputy Commissioner (DC) Shantanu Sharma and Superintendent of Police (SP) Surinder Singh Bhoria announced that the government had accepted the farmers’ demands, the farmers themselves declared an end to the blockade, which had commenced on Monday at 2 pm at Pipli in Kurukshetra.

The farmers have been demanding that the state government procure their sunflower crop at an MSP of Rs 6,400 per quintal, as announced for the crop by the central government for 2022-23.

Sharma and Bhoria, who had held seven rounds of meetings in a span of 10 hours with agitating farmers Tuesday, announced the government’s decision at about 8.30 pm at night. However, neither provided details about the discussions held with the farmers or the specific demands put forth by the farmers that were accepted by the government.

Addressing the farmers after the negotiations ended, DC Sharma said, “HAFED (Haryana State Co-operative Supply and Marketing Federation Limited) started purchasing sunflowers at Rs 4,800 per quintal a few days ago. The rate was hiked to Rs 4,900 today. Now, we have received instructions from the government that HAFED should start purchasing sunflowers at Rs 5,000 from tomorrow,” he said.

“The Haryana government is with the farmers. CM sahab announced the setting up of a 20,000 MT sunflower oil production unit during his visit to Ganaur on Sunday. That will be implemented soon. The government is committed to providing sahi daam (the right price) to farmers. It will be done either by increasing the purchase price or by compensating the farmers under Bhavantar Bharpayee Yojana,” added Sharma.

In the videos seen by ThePrint of Sharma’s announcement, farmer leaders standing near the DC clarify to farmers that by “sahi daam”, he meant MSP. The DC didn’t deny this.

Farmer leader Krishan Kumar Wednesday told ThePrint that they have been assured by the authorities that besides Rs 5,000 per quintal to be paid by the HAFED for the crop and Rs 1,000 per quintal as interim relief already announced by the government, an additional sum of Rs 400 per quintal will be paid to them as the government has assured them.

The farmer leaders had also requested the SP to announce the withdrawal of cases against farm union leader Gurnam Singh Charuni and others in connection with the 6 June road blockade case.

Among the farmers who participated in the initial rounds of talks were BKU president Karam Singh Madhana, president of Kurukshetra unit of BKU (Charuni) Krishan Kumar, farmer leader Sanju Gudiana and jailed BKU (Charuni) president Gurnam Singh Charuni’s son Arshpal Singh. Later, BKU (Tikait) state president Rattan Singh Mann, Samyukta Kisan Morcha’s Suresh Koth and leader Amarjit Singh Mohri also joined the committee set up by farmers to negotiate with the authorities.

The SP announced that the authorities have discussed the issue of criminal cases with the committee constituted by the farmers and that the authorities have accepted their demands. “What is to be done and the manner in which it is to be done has been explained to the committee members,” said Bhoria.

Speaking to ThePrint, a senior officer, on condition of anonymity, said it was not advisable for any police officer to announce withdrawal of cases in public because it could have implications in the court.

After celebrating their victory for over an hour at the blockade site, farmers cleared the national highway at 10 pm.

Also read: What’s the sunflower MSP dispute that has Haryana farmers on warpath against Khattar govt

Past agitations

On 6 June, farmers, led by Gurnam Singh Charuni, the president of Bhartiya Kisan Union (Charuni), initiated a protest against the state government’s refusal to procure their crops at MSP, and blocked the Chandigarh-Delhi highway, NH-44, near Shahbad.

However, the police forcefully dispersed the farmers by lathi-charging them. Charuni and eight others were subsequently arrested. They refused to apply for bail the next day and were sent to judicial lock up for 14 days.

According to media reports, the agitating farmers announced a Mahapanchayat in Kurukshetra Monday, where they issued an ultimatum to the government to accept their demand for MSP and release the jailed leaders by 2 pm.

When the government failed to address their concerns by the specified time, the farmers proceeded to block NH-44 Monday. Several prominent farmer leaders, including Rakesh Tikait, were present during the protest and subsequent negotiations.

To manage the situation, the authorities redirected the traffic to alternative routes and initiated negotiations with the farmers on Tuesday.

(Edited by Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri)

Also Read: Can India actually afford MSP for farmers? It’s a question of political will

Source: The Print

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