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Farmers’ Unions in Himachal Pradesh to Hold Protest on 5 August as Talks with CM Remains Inconclusive

The union officials encouraged the government to fully enforce the Agriculture Produce Marketing (Regulation) Act, 2005, raise the import duty on apples to 100%, and clear farmers' pending dues.

Sandeep Kr Tiwari
All farmers and fruit growers were asked to engage participants in the protest being organized to “save agriculture and growers’ livelihoods.” according to SKM convener Harish Chauhan.
All farmers and fruit growers were asked to engage participants in the protest being organized to “save agriculture and growers’ livelihoods.” according to SKM convener Harish Chauhan.

Farmers' unions in Himachal Pradesh on Friday decided to go ahead with their planned protest outside the Secretariat on August 5, dismissing the promises made to them as “mere eyewash”. The decision comes a day after Chief Minister, Jai Ram Thakur met with angry fruit growers.

On Thursday, sixty representatives of Sanuykt Kisan Morcha- an umbrella organization for 27 farmers' unions, met with Himachal Pradesh chief minister Jai Ram Thakur to express their demands. Along with former Shimla mayor Sanjay Chauhan, horticulture minister Mahender Singh Thakur, urban development minister Suresh Bhardwaj, education minister Govind Singh Thakur, Chopal MLA Balbir Verma, Theog MLA Rakesh Singha, horticulture secretary Amitabh Avasthi, chief secretary RD Dhiman, additional chief secretary Prabodh Saxena, and other senior officials were also Present.

The farmers submitted a 20-point charter to the CM. Assuming that the demands were justified, the government made the decision to form a committee with the chief secretary as its head to investigate the farmers' grievances. Additional chief secretaries (finance), principal secretary (excise and taxation) secretaries (agriculture and horticulture) as well as members of farmers' associations, will include on the committee.

Growers' complaints

Harish Chauhan, president of the Himachal Pradesh Fruit Growers' Association, urged the chief minister to consider different issues pertaining to the welfare of the horticulturists. Fruit growers are demanding a subsidy on fungicides and pesticides, a reduction in the GST on fruit packaging materials (particularly trays and cardboard cartons), and a minimum support price for apples similar to that in Kashmir, where growers receive Rs 64 for apples of A-grade, Rs 44 for apples of B-grade, and Rs 24 for apples of C-grade. The government of Himachal pays Rs 10.5 for all apple grades.

The union officials encouraged the government to fully enforce the Agriculture Produce Marketing (Regulation) Act, 2005, raise the import duty on apples to 100%, and clear farmers' pending dues.

Additionally, they requested the CM to forgive farmer loans, constitute an expert council to fix apple prices in CA (controlled atmosphere) stores run by private companies, and reserve 25% of the Space of these stores for apples.

Using a committee to sidetrack farmers: Former mayor

Soon after the meeting, representatives of all farmers’ unions met and decided that the government's decision to move to constitute a committee was just an eyewash. Sanjay Chauhan, who is also the co-convener of the farmers' forum, said “The governments’ assurances are mere tactics to sidetrack the farmers’ demands,”

All farmers and fruit growers were asked to engage participants in the protest being organized to “save agriculture and growers’ livelihoods.” according to SKM convener Harish Chauhan.

Harish Chauhan said about the cabinet's decision to provide a 6% subsidy on packaging materials, “The subsidy should be available to all fruit growers, not just those who purchase cartons and trays from HPMC and HIMFED.” 

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