After an assurance by the state government to look into their demands on Friday, various farmer organisations in Himachal Pradesh deferred their protest, which they claimed to be successful. However, they gave an ultimatum to the state government that if their demands are not met, they would launch a ‘Jail Bharo Andolan’ (mass court arrest) on 17 August.
The decision was taken by the farmer organisations that have congregated under the banner of the Sanyukt Kisan Manch (SKM).
SKM convenor Sanjay Chauhan said that after the massive protests by the farmers, the state government was forced to hold a meeting under the chairmanship of the Chief Secretary, even in the absence of the chief minister and other cabinet ministers of the state.
“The meeting, which was held on behalf of the government, was attended by the Chief Secretary, Secretary Agriculture, Secretary Horticulture, Managing Director HPMC, Managing Director Marketing Board,” he added.
He further said that 30 representatives of the farmer organisations participated in the meeting, wherein their 20-point charter of demands, which was submitted to Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur on 28 July, was discussed.
He however, was not sure about the implementation of their demand. He said, “During the meeting, the officials, who were seeking 10 days’ time, failed to give an affirmation on how to implement the demands on the ground. They only gave us assurances.”
The Chief Secretary assured that the state government would take up the issue with the Central Government. It is up to the Centre to implement the demands, he added.
Among the demands are implementation of the Market Intervention Scheme (MIS) on the lines of Kashmir and increase in the import duty on apples to 100 percent.
“In the meeting, it was apparent from the attitude of the officials that the government is not serious about the demands of the farmers and apple growers,” Convenor Chauhan rued.
“There was a demand by the representatives of the SKM to do away with the GST on the packaging materials used for agriculture and horticulture purposes, including cartons and trays,” said SKM convenor.
“Besides, the representatives of farmer organisations also demanded strict implementation of APMC Act, 2005 in all the mandis in the state,” he said, adding that the government has been apprised that hundreds of crores of rupees are being looted every year from lakhs of farmers and apple growers of the state with the connivance of APMC, Arhtiyas and other fruit buyers.
“In the mandis, illegal deductions ranging from Rs. 20 to Rs. 150 per box are done in the name of labour, exemption, bank charges, etc. whereas the labour charges for a 20 kg box have been fixed only at Rs. 5 per box. According to the law, additional deduction cannot be made,” he said, expressing the concern that the government has been adopting a casual attitude and shying away from its responsibilities by making the excuse of lack of staff.