The ongoing agitation against the three farm laws found an echo in BJP-ruled Himachal Pradesh on Monday as farmers, mainly apple growers of the hill state, held a statewide protest, demanding the Centre repeal the contentious legislation and bring their produce under the minimum support price (MSP), too.
Representatives of the state’s farm organisations, including fruit, vegetable and milk associations, which formed the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha last week, submitted a memorandum of their demands, addressed to governor Bandaru Dattatreya, to the authorities at the district and block levels. Kisan Sabha activists staged a protest at Mashobra, 10 km from Shimla town, and submitted the memorandum to chief minister Jai Ram Thakur.
New farm laws favour corporates: Growers
In view of the rising input cost and competition from apples imported from China, Iran and Turkey, HP Fruit and Vegetable Association president Harish Chauhan said: “Himachal Pradesh’s ₹4,000-crore apple economy is facing a crisis due to the unfavourable policies of the state and Centre. We want MSP to be fixed for the apple produce and the crop should be given special category status. The import duty on apple should be raised from 50% to 100%. This will help growers get remunerative prices.”
Nawar Valley Apple Society president Mahijit Rathore said the input cost of apple cultivation has risen manifold over the years, but the government’s market intervention scheme has failed to help farmers. “The import of apples from Iran and other Saarc Preferential Trading Arrangement (SAPTA) countries have affected the prices and hit the interest of farmers of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Kashmir,” he said.
Lokinder Singh Bisht, the president of Progressive Growers Association, said besides facing competition from duty-free import of Iranian and Turkish apples, apple growers of the state are burdened by the increase of diesel prices, rates of packaging material, fertilisers and other inputs.
“Now with the new farm laws that favour corporatisation and monopolisation, the apple economy will be further hit. It’s imperative that the government fixes the MSP for apples and other horticulture crops to ensure sustainability,” he said.
Unlike other states where farmers can grow two to four crops a year, Bisht said horticulturists of Himachal have no other source of income other than the single crop that they get in a year, battling nature’s vagaries, changing climatic conditions and labour shortage.
Farmers seek FCI centres for maize in HP
Kuldeep Singh Tanwar, the president of the Himachal Kisan Sabha, said while farmers have been on a protest for more than 100 days, the Centre was unfazed by their plight.
Sanjay Chauhan, a member of the Sanyukt Kisan Manch, demanded that the government repeal the anti-farmer laws as the legislation would do no good to farmers and only result in high input cost and the corporate sector controlling food supply. According to the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission, MSP should be implemented as a law, he said.
The state’s farmer leaders said that the government should set up Food Corporation of India centres to procure maize in Himachal Pradesh besides fixing the MSP for apple, tomato, garlic, ginger and milk.
They also want the Electricity Amendment Act to be withdrawn as it would result in privatisation of power distribution and the cost of electricity will impact the farm input cost.