New Delhi: Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today met Prime Minister Narendra Modi after a hiatus of over 11 months to put forward a string of demands, including the implementation of the Swaminathan formula to determine the minimum support price (MSP) of crops—an issue that has deep resonance with the Opposition.
Badal last met Modi one-on-one at 7, Race Course Road, on September 22, 2014. Raising the Swaminathan formula issue in the run-up to the Bihar Assembly elections would rankle with the Modi dispensation. The implementation of the formula was on the BJP manifesto for the 2014 General Election.
The Opposition has been picking bones with Modi on farmers’ issues, including the remunerative MSP. Raking up the issue by a long-standing NDA ally will provide a longer handle to it against the saffron party and Modi.
A communiqué of the state government said: “Strongly contending to make agriculture occupation far more profitable and economically viable, Punjab Chief Minister today urged the Prime Minister to immediately implement the Swaminathan formula for determining the MSP of crops.”
Substantive portion of points put forth by Badal before Modi related to agriculture and kindred subjects. These included procurement of maize and sunflower on the pattern of wheat and paddy at MSP by the FCI; enlarging the scope of crop diversification scheme by rechristening it as “agriculture diversification”; and, to bring animal husbandry and allied avocations like dairy, piggery, etc, on a par with agriculture so as to exempt them, among others, from income tax.
The CM urged the PM to direct the Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR) to ensure early clearance of irrigation projects worth Rs 4,418 crore that had been stuck at different stages. These projects include extension, renovation and modernisation of canals fed by the Sutlej, rehabilitation of the UBDC system and relining of Rajasthan and Sirhind feeders.
Badal also reiterated demands for concessions to boost industrialisation in Punjab, and to waive expenditure incurred by the state to counter insurgency and on para-miliatary forces during militancy days.
He sought personal intervention of the PM to ensure ‘level playing field’ for the state industry which, was in doldrums. “Punjab needs concessions on the lines of the ones extended to Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand,” he said.
As per the state government’s version, Modi assured Badal of getting all issues resolved on priority.