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Paddy price heat on Centre

Chandigarh, Oct. 13: The Punjab Assembly has adopted a resolution “expressing resentment over the deliberate and politically motivated delayed announcement” of the minimum support price for paddy by the Centre, amid a walkout by BJP and Shiromani Akali Dal legislators.

The resolution was passed at a one-day special session convened on Friday by the Congress government following pressure from farmers’ organisations and political organisations at an all-party meeting recently. The BJP, the Akali Dal and the CPI, however, did not attend the meeting.

The special session, called to discuss problems faced by farmers after the drought and the late announcement of minimum support price for paddy, saw Congress and Akali legislators blaming each other for the farmers’ predicament.

Moving the resolution on the issue, Punjab finance minister Lal Singh blamed Akali leader Parkash Singh Badal for “playing politics” with the lives of farmers, inviting angry remarks from the Opposition benches.

“This session has been called to protect the interests of the farmers,” he said.

“It is aimed to put pressure on the Centre to hike the MSP and also provide compensation to farmers for the late announcement. We are demanding an MSP of Rs 726 and a bonus of Rs 100,” he added.

Badal shot back, castigating the government for calling a two-hour session to discuss a “sensitive” issue.

“It only proves the seriousness of the government,” said the former chief minister.

The Akali leader said his party would support the resolution if it included the failure of the Punjab government to provide adequate power supply during the drought and announce payment of Rs 5,000 per acre to farmers as compensation, as demanded in the Akali Dal resolution that had been rejected by the Speaker.

Reacting to Opposition criticism that the government “slept” during the crisis faced by the farmers, the resolution was amended to include the steps taken by the state, including spending Rs 6,000 crore, to save the paddy crop during the drought. It also mentioned that additional power was bought by the government for Rs 400 crore and diverting power from the industrial sector to the farm sector, resulting in a loss of Rs 1,800 crore.

Chief minister Amarinder Singh said the government had submitted a detailed report to the Centre on the drought in the state. “I am happy that the team sent to the state by the Centre has found our claim to be true. They have said conditions are worse than what the report mentions,” he said.

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