Indian Agrarian Crisis now moved to www.agrariancrisis.in

Farmer-the most endangered species

Farmers find their voice in ‘Chamber of Punjab Farmers’

Posted by Ramoo on March 9, 2007

http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsi…

Amrita Chaudhry

Ludhiana, March 8: FOR long, it has been the industry that has been the engine of policy making. From taxation to excise, the industry takes care of all sectors. Even the agriculture sector gets its policies designed by industrialists, who have little clue about the socio-economic fabric of agriculture. But all this will change, at least in Punjab, where farmers have a formal platform, “Chamber of Punjab Farmers”, as their spokesperson.

It has been six months now that this chamber came into being and after the initial teething troubles, it has started to make its presence felt on the state scene.

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Avtar Singh Dhindsa, well-known progressive farmer and a floriculturist who is the first president of this chamber, explained, “We are the CII for the farmers. We needed this platform as even agriculture policies were being devised by the CII, while it should have been the other way around. Apart from this, our main objective is to restore the lost dignity of Punjabi farmers.”

Armed with some of the leading agriculture brains of the state, the chamber has embarked upon a Herculean task. “Our first task is to see that the farmers get the payment for their produce. There is no trade in the world where the producer is not paid. In our case, it is the commission agents who get the money. For this, we have already filed a PIL in the Punjab and Haryana High Court and the court in turn has asked the state to reply on the issue,” said Dhindsa.

He added, “Another important issue is that we make agriculture sustainable. And for this while we have a whole battery of scientists, we need to do more. The chamber has planned a series of guest lectures where we will invite speakers like Dr Vandana Shiva, etc. At least let us hear what they have to say. If we like their model of sustainable agriculture, we will adopt it. The idea is that we have to broaden our vistas of knowledge.”

“Then there are many issues that the government is reluctant to speak on, such as farmer suicides, farmer indebtedness, increase in income of farmers and so on. It is these issues that we will design a policy for the state government. From now on, we farmers, too, will have a pressure group in the form of this chamber, which will help voice their concern directly and not through the industry,” he said.

The melting pot of the chamber is the 11-member executive body which includes some well-known names like dairy farmer Daljit Singh, potato growers Sukhbir Singh Bhatti and Jang Bahadur Singh Sangha, just to name a few.

When asked if this chamber was yet another club of elite farmers of the state, Dhindsa remarked, “We have progressive farmers on board, as after all they have struggled to reach where they are today. As a farmer myself, I know where it hurts and I am constantly in touch with the small farmers around me. We are a community and we are bound by our problems. Thus this chamber is no elitist group but a voice of the Punjab farmers.”

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