BKU (l) delegation meets PM, defers march to Delhi

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Old 10-Mar-2011
BKU (l) delegation meets PM, defers march to Delhi

Chandigarh March 10:

Claiming to be the son of a farmer, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yesterday gave a BKU (Lakhowal) delegation a patient hearing and announced to convene a joint meeting with the Finance and Agriculture Ministers soon after the Budget session of Parliament for an in-depth discussion on issues worrying farmers in the country.

He also promised that every year, before the Budget, the government would bring out a report on the state of Indian agriculture. President of the Punjab unit of the BKU, Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, who opened his heart to the PM over the growing discontent, distress and frustration among farmers of the country in general and Punjab in particular, held that deliberations during the meeting that lasted for over an hour were meaningful. Never before, any Prime Minister had spent so much time with a delegation of farmers to listen to their long-standing demands.

Also present throughout the meeting were the Union Agriculture Minister and the Minister of State in the Prime Ministers’ Office (PMO). Meanwhile, the Punjab BKU deferred till further notice the proposed farmers’ march to Delhi, which was to be undertaken today. Instead, Lakhowal, while addressing a thanksgiving rally at Mohali, briefed state farmers about the negotiations the delegation had with the PM yesterday. He said in case the Centre did not honour its commitment and promises, the BKU would not hesitate in reviving its agitation.

“We could not have asked for more. The PM took keen interest in discussing all our major problems and promised to refer our memoranda to various Central ministries for their comments and inputs in resolving the demands of farmers,” Lakhowal told TNS after the meeting. From the acquisition of cultivable land to remunerative prices for the farm produce, the delegation used the opportunity to impress upon the PM to lower the rate of interest to 4 per cent on loans advanced to the farm sector other than the crop loan. The delegation that comprised Rakesh Tikait, Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, Yudhvir Singh,Putnaiyah, Satnam Singh Cheema, Gurnam Singh, Deewan Chand Choudhary and Rajveer Singh also insisted on an effective mechanism for the implementation of the MSP.

Another important issue taken up at the meeting, says Lakhowal, was giving consideration to sensitivities of GM crops besides safeguarding interests of the country’s farmers while engaging with organisations like World Trade Organisation and Free Trade Agreements. Lakhowal said other demands that figured at the meeting with the PM included health insurance and watching interests of farmers in drafting the Seed Bill. The delegation also tried to convince the PM that like the Railway Budget, it would be ideal if the country had a separate agriculture Budget also.

The PM reiterated the government’s concern for farmers’ welfare and assured that their interests were paramount and would be protected at all times. The government, he said, had already enhanced the MSPs very substantially over the past five-six years. It would continue to strive to protect farmers’ interests through the MSP mechanism. Regarding the land acquisition, the PM promised that a separate meeting would be organised between the Ministry of Rural Development and farmers’ organisations.

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