New Delhi: A delegation of farmers from Punjab on Tuesday thanked Congress president and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi for the government's decision to allow foreign equity in multi-brand retail and said the move will benefit both the farmers and consumers.

"We have fully endorsed and supported the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government in opening up 51 percent FDI in retail. This will benefit both farmers and consumers," said a memorandum given to Gandhi by a Bharti Kisan Union (BKU) delegation from Punjab.

"It will curb the menace of inflation caused by retail cartels," said the memorandum.A BKU delegation had met Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi in December 2011 urging him to implement the government's decision (on FDI in retail taken in November), which was put on hold after former UPA ally Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee protested.

Stating that the agriculture sector was passing through a grave crisis and needed the government's priority attention, the delegation said farmers are on the verge of an economic breakdown.

The BKU delegation urged the government to declare 2013 as the farmer's empowerment year and suggested a slew of steps like a loan waiver, drought relief and MSP linked to wholesale price index.

The group said the government should consult it before passing the land acquisition act and said that farmers should be included in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act rural job plan.

Suggesting that diesel should be issued to farmers at half the market price, the delegation urged the government to do away with the 'arhatiya' (middlemen) system at the grain procurement markets.


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