Around fifty farmers from Uttar Pradesh were stopped from entering neighbouring Haryana’s Karnal district on Monday to sell their paddy crop at government-run mandis (wholesale markets), despite the controversial farm bills – which promise barrier-free trade at markets and prices of the farmer’s choice – having been signed into law on Sunday night.
The Karnal Deputy Commissioner, Nishant Yadav, issued orders on Saturday to prevent farmers crossing the state border to sell non-basmati varieties of rice – which the Haryana government buys at a MSP (minimum support price) but the UP government does not.
The district administration was reportedly looking to ensure that the same crop grown by local farmers is given preference – something that has not happened in previous seasons.
The Haryana government, however, has said that farmers looking to sell non-basmati varieties of rice will be allowed but only after registering on a state-run portal and waiting for their turn.
“There is no law which bars farmers from other states from selling their produce in Haryana. However, we have a portal where farmers upload their details so it is easier for us to buy from them. Due to Covid procurement has been staggered. Every registered farmer gets an SMS about their arrival date at the market,” PK Das, Additional Chief Secretary (Food and Civil Supplies), said.
“We have asked these farmers to register on that portal. Once they do it they will also receive a similar text and then, on their scheduled date, they can come with their produce,” he added.
Farmers and farming experts, however, say that this is only an excuse on the part of the state government to favour local farmers – something that is against the premise of farming legislations hailed as “historic” by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling BJP.
The issue of MSP, or the minimum price at which the government buys food grains, is at the core of widespread protests against the farm law, with some farmers believing the price – which acts as a guarantee of return on their hard work – has been abolished by the centre and that they will now be left to deal with powerful corporates who will insist on paying lower rates.
For several days now there have been fierce protests nationwide over the farm laws; this morning a tractor was set on fire near Delhi’s iconic India Gate. In other parts of the country farmers have blocked highways, sat on railway tracks and held vociferous protest marches.
Congress chief Sonia Gandhi – whose party has been vocal on this issue – on Monday asked chief ministers in party-ruled states to consider bringing in laws to overrule those passed by the centre.