Days after the Union Cabinet held back its decision to hike minimum support price (MSP) of wheat for the 2013-14 crop marketing season, leaders of Punjab and Haryana — two of the country's biggest wheat-producing states — demanded the government should raise the MSP of wheat to compensate for the sharp increase in input costs of fertiliser and diesel.
Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal had alleged the Centre was discouraging farmers in the state to grow wheat, which, Badal claimed, could create a global crisis. “I am shocked. If, by chance, production of wheat goes down because Punjab farmers are discouraged from producing wheat; there will be crisis of wheat in the world. Punjab meets 60 per cent of the total wheat requirement of the country," Badal told reporters on the sidelines of a Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) conference on investment in North India.
He said the indecisiveness of the Centre was crushing farmers in Punjab.
Punjab, along with Haryana, produces more than 80 per cent of the total wheat grown in the country. Both the states are also major contributors of the grain to the central pool.
Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda said he has written to the Union agriculture ministry to raise the MSP of wheat because of the rising cost of fertiliser.
The decision to stick to the current MSP of wheat for 2013-14 was taken because of a lack of consensus among different ministries. Officials said the Cabinet members wanted more discussion on the matter before taking a final call.
Officials said the food ministry was in favour of a freeze on MSP because of the rising food subsidy bill, but the agriculture ministry wants a nine-10 per cent increase because of increase in input costs.
The Commission for Agriculture Costs and Prices (CACP), the government's nodal agency for determining the prices of farm products, had for the first time in almost 10 years recommended freezing the MSP of wheat in 2013-14 at Rs 1,285 per quintal.
"They (the Centre) want to control Punjab farmers from the top and let the cost go down. They want farmers to be crushed," Badal said.
On the bottleneck in making Punjab a power-surplus state by 2013, the deputy chief minister said the Centre had assured 80-per cent fuel linkage, which was unfair as companies had made huge investments in power in the state, but they didn't have assured fuel supply.
"I feel the biggest problem with the Government of India is indecisiveness. The Government of India should reduce bottlenecks and red tapism. Only then can India progress," Badal said.