NEW DELHI: The Congress on Sunday demanded an immediate start of procurement of paddy and other Kharif crops at minimum support price (MSP) after relaxation in norms for moisture content.

The Centre had on Saturday issued an order to commence paddy procurement in Punjab and Haryana from October 3 after its earlier decision to postpone procurement till October 11 due to recent heavy rains sparked protests.

Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala alleged that the government was “conspiring to end the MSP” by delaying procurement and “not relaxing norms for moisture content in paddy.”

He demanded that the Centre grant compensation within seven days to farmers whose crops have been damaged by the recent rains from the national disaster relief fund.

“Conspiring to attack the livelihood of farmers and labourers has become the habit of the Modi government. Earlier it was delaying the procurement of paddy and other crops and now they are attacking the livelihood of farmers by not relaxing norms for moisture content in paddy,” he alleged in a statement.

The Congress leader said the procurement of crops in Punjab and Haryana was to start by September 25, which was changed even as lakhs of quintals of crops were lying in various mandis.

No procurement of even a single rupee has so far taken place at the minimum support price announced by the government, he claimed.

The Haryana government has once again changed to October 3 the date for government procurement at MSP, he said, adding that no crops can be procured at MSP as per existing norms which allow up to 17 percent moisture in crops, whereas crops in the market have a moisture content of 22 to 22.7 percent currently.

“The Congress demands that the government immediately relaxes the procurement norms for moisture content in crops so that farmers can get relief and their crops are not destroyed. But, the truth is that the Modi government is deliberately conspiring to do like this so that no procurement can take place and the MSP regime can end,” Surjewala alleged.

“The Congress also demands that the government allows relaxation of up to 25 per cent moisture in paddy for procurement at MSP, which should start immediately. The Congress also demands that the BJP should stop its conspiracy to end MSP regime and grant compensation to farmers within seven days from the national disaster relief fund, for crops damaged in recent rains,” he said.

The government is “deliberately delaying the procurement of crops so that the farmers do not get the MSP for their crops and are compelled to sell in distress”, he alleged, adding that this is happening for the first time in independent India.