Farmers back to highway road blockade over MSP for Sunflower

Kurukshetra: Farmers on Monday blocked the Delhi-Chandigarh highway after holding a mahapanchayat in this district to press for minimum support price for sunflower seed.

The “MSP Dilao, Kisan Bachao mahapanchayat”, called by Bharatiya Kisan Union (Charuni), was held at a grain market in Pipli close to National Highway-44. After the mahapanchayat the farmers gathered on the highway, blocking it. Police were diverting traffic from other routes.

At the mahapanchayat, farmer leader Karam Singh Mathana said the local administration had assured them of a meeting with Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar to discuss their demands. “But now they say the chief minister has left Karnal”.

“Because of this, the local committee which had organised the mahapanchayat decided to block the National Highway-44 till our demands are met,” Mathana said.

On June 6, farmers led by Bharatiya Kisan Union (Charuni) chief Gurnam Singh Charuni blocked National Highway-44 near Shahabad demanding that the government procure sunflower seeds at minimum support price. Police used water cannons and resorted to lathicharge to disperse the protesters.

Later, nine BKU (Charuni) leaders, including its president, were arrested over various charges, including rioting and unlawful assembly.

Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait, who attended the mahapanchayat on Monday, said the government should procure sunflower on MSP and the farmer leaders arrested in Shahabad should be released.

Addressing the Mahapanchayat, Tiakit announced that the Samyukta Kisan Morcha would start a pan-India agitation if a law for MPS, “as promised by the Union government”, is not brought.

The government announces MSP but fails to procure it at that rate, he alleged.     Tiakit condemned the police action against Churni and the farmers who on June 6 blocked National Highway-44 and asked, “What wrong has the BKU (Charuni) leader done when he sought MSP for sunflower crop.”

Apart from leaders of various khaps and Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait, Olympic medal-winning wrestler Bajrang Punia, one of the grapplers who have been demanding action against outgoing Wrestling Federation of India chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, were present at the mahapanchayat.

Addressing the mahapanchayat, some farm leaders criticised the government for its “anti-farmers” policies and police actions against their leaders. They demanded that the government procure sunflower seeds at MSP and that the protesters arrested in Shahabad recently be released.

Elaborate police arrangements have been made to prevent any untoward incident.

Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar had on Saturday released Rs 29.13 crore as interim compensation to 8,528 farmers for sunflowers grown on 36,414 acres. The farmers are demanding that the state government procure sunflowers at an MSP of Rs 6,400 per quintal.

Under the Bhavantar Bharpai Yojana — price difference payment scheme — the state government is giving Rs 1,000 per quintal as interim support for sunflower crop sold below MSP.

Addressing the Mahapanchayat, Bajrang Punia said the wrestlers have postponed their agitation till June 15 and their next course of action would be announced if strong action is not taken against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh by that time.

The Union government had assured the wrestlers that a charge sheet will be filed against the outgoing Wrestling Federation of India chief Singh by June 15, following which they had halted their protest.

Punia said they were getting full support from various khaps and other organisations in their struggle.