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Chandigarh, June 12 – Days after protesting sunflower growers were baton charged and forcibly evicted for blocking the National Highway-44 in near Kurukshetra in Haryana in support of their demand to procure the crop under the minimum support price by the government, crowds of farmers on Monday started gathering again in support of the demand.
BKU leader Rakesh Tikait, who is expected to reach the protest site Pipli in Kurukshetra district, has already threatened a larger agitation than the year-long protest against the now repealed farm laws if the government did not announce a legal guarantee of the MSP for procurement of crops.
As a preventive measure, the government has imposed Section 144 in Pipli, a ruling that prohibits public gatherings in a given jurisdiction.
Farm leaders have also warned authorities to release their nine leaders, including Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) state president Gurnam Singh Charuni, who were sent to custody for 14 days for blocking the national highway on June 7, otherwise a massive rally would be held on June 12.
Besides charges pertaining to rioting, they are facing cases for unlawful assembly, use of criminal force to deter public servants from discharging duty and attempt to murder.
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.
Supporting the cause of farmers, Congress leader Randeep Surjewala on Monday asked, “Is it a crime to ask for MSP now? Is it a crime to raise the voice of the farmer? Is democratic protest a crime?”
“If this is a crime, then every farmer will commit this crime again and again. Khattar-Dushyant’s jail will be reduced. The struggle of the farmers is not going to reduce,” Surjewala tweeted.
Amidst the rift between the state government and farmers, Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar has said the government is studying the market for adequately compensating sunflower growers.
While digitally releasing Rs 29.13 crore as an interim ‘bharpai’ (compensation) to 8,528 sunflower farmers growing the crop on 36,414 acres of land on Saturday, the Chief Minister gave a clear message that some people are trying to create confusion among the farmers claiming that his government does not care for the farmers.
“I would like to clarify that despite challenges, the Centre or the state government is taking pro-farmer policies.”
The government has included sunflower in the Bhavantar Bharpai Yojana under which farmers will be paid Rs 1,000 per quintal if produce is selling below the MSP.
Kurukshetra district has the highest production of sunflower and its main procurement centre is Shahbad. Besides, the sunflower purchase centres have been set up at places of Ambala, Yamunanagar, Karnal, and Panchkula districts.
Hafed has started procurement of sunflower crops for the first time and has announced to remain in the market till the procurement process is completed in the mandis.
It has been procuring sunflowers at the rate of Rs 4,850 per quintal in Shahbad. With the Chief Minister giving interim relief of Rs 1,000 per quintal under the Bhavantar Bharpayee Yojana, now the purchase of sunflower in Haryana has raised to Rs 5,800 per quintal.
At present, sunflowers are being purchased in Punjab between Rs 3,800 and Rs 4,200.
To pacify the farmers, the Chief Minister on Sunday announced the opening of a sunflower oil factory in Kurukshetra, which will have a capacity of 20,000 metric tonnes.