A farmers' delegation, which met Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on Wednesday, demanded a separate 'Kisan Budget' for the farm sector as they believe their issues are not properly addressed in the General Budget.
"You must present a separate 'Kisan Budget' similar to the rail budget," the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) delegation, led by Mahendra Singh Tikait, told Pawar.
During the meeting, the representatives raised several demands, including waiver of farm loan and revision in the mechanism adopted to fix the minimum support price of farm products.
Pawar assured the delegation that he would personally look into the suggestions made by BKU in the memorandum and invited them for a detailed discussion on March 4, 2008.
On waiver of loans to farmers, the minister indicated that some steps would be taken in the budget.
"Come and meet me after the budget. Then I will be able to answer your demand. Something is going on," Pawar said.
BKU Secretary Yudhbir Singh urged Pawar to determine the farmers' wages after considering them as skilled workers.
"The CACP takes into account 144 working days for farmers whereas they work for 365 days in a year," Singh argued.
Regarding BKU's demand for increasing the wheat MSP to Rs 1,400 a quintal, Pawar said farmers are also consumers and they will not be able to afford such hike as every farmer does not grow all commodities.
The minister also reiterated the government's commitment to protect the farmers' interest in WTO negotiations.
The BKU delegation pointed out that mills were holding back payments to the sugarcane growers on the grounds that sugar prices have slumped in the international markets.
The farmers also demanded uniform power rate for agriculture sector as the MSP for each product is same all over the country. However, Pawar said the cost of production of electricity varies from state to state. The BKU delegation stressed the need to make agricultural products remunerative so that farmers do not need any credit.
It also demanded that frost should be treated as natural calamity, like drought and floods, for insurance coverage. The farmers cited the recent damage to mustard and chana crops in Rajasthan and Haryana due to frost.