Thursday, December 2, 2021
View PointOpinion: Purchase paddy or perish politically

Opinion: Purchase paddy or perish politically

Published: 18th Nov 2021 12:15 am

By Krishank Manne

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It is evident that the BJP has chosen paddy production and procurement for its politics. This is something unprecedented and a very strategic ploy of the party to misguide poor farmers. The BJP state president’s call to farmers contradicts his own party’s policy at the Centre on procurement cap. The whole argument put up by the Telangana BJP State unit is about deceiving by creating false propaganda.

Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao has asked the Centre straight questions on latter’s paddy policy to which till now the Telangana unit of the BJP hasn’t responded. Instead, it is resorting to politics by taking out processions, which are being opposed by farmers who are protesting the BJP’s double standard approach. The protests have turned ugly with the BJP leaders clashing with farmers.

Centre’s Duty

When on May 31, 2021, Chandrashekhar Rao demanded that the Prime Minister procure paddy from Telangana on a par with Punjab, the opposition parties were tight-lipped. On September 1, Ministers Gangula Kamalakar and KT Rama Rao met the Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution requesting the Centre to procure par-boiled rice through the Food Corporation of India. In the same month, Chandrashekhar Rao met Union Cabinet Minister Piyush Goyal and persuaded the Centre to purchase parboiled rice.
Not a single Telangana BJP or Congress leader had raised the issue then. While the tacit understanding of the BJP and the Congress is exposed yet again, the Telangana Congress, based on its functioning as Revanth Congress, is nowhere questioning the BJP on this issue. The Telangana BJP pretends as though there is no issue, while the fact is the Odisha Chief Minister on October 21 demanded that the Centre procure parboiled rice.

Policy Decision

The Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) is the essential body, which regularly issues reports on guidelines over varieties of crops, suggests MSP and guides on amount of procurement to the Union Minister of Agriculture. The CACP has released a report in which it has suggested the Government of India stop purchasing paddy from small and marginal farmers.

The CACP report says that “the excess rice stocks will put pressure on the exchequer in terms of higher storage and financing costs, and create storage space shortage.” It suggested that the Central government should review open-ended procurement policy and take a policy decision to restrict rice and wheat procurement from small and marginal farmers and a fixed quantum of procurement from semi-medium, medium and large farmers.

The reaction to CACP’s recommendations reflected in the Government of India’s letter from Krishi Bhawan (Aug 31, 2021) to all the State governments where it issued directions to them to encourage farmers to sow other crops as wheat and rice were in surplus. The State governments cannot directly procure grains and store them as there is no storage space. It is the duty of the Central government to procure and distribute, based on the requirement, to execute the mechanism of the Public Distribution System.

The representatives of both the national parties are now demanding that the Telangana government procure and store, forgetting the fact that there is not much space to store large quantities of grain. On January 14, 2016, the Food Corporation of India (FCI) released an action plan to construct steel silos. Telangana was allotted 2 rice silos for construction in Phase 3. Till date, the silos have not been initiated. It is to be noted that the Government of India has inked a pact with the Adani Group to construct the silos.

Both the BJP and the Congress are responsible, as neither of them can be spared for their wrong-doings. The Congress hilariously blames the current BJP government at the Centre for tying up with Adani, but the fact is while global tenders were initiated by the FCI in 2003 under the national policy of Bulk Handling, Storage and Transportation, the Adani Group was awarded the contract in 2005, and the project was commissioned in 2007 for a concession period of 20 years under the UPA regime.

‘Hungry’ Nation

Union Minister Nitin Gadkari during an interaction said the country had 280 lakh tonne rice reserves in godowns for the last three years and there was a chance that it might rot. He continues to say that our nation has so much rice that we can export it to the entire world, we are a rice surplus nation. But what the BJP fails to understand is that our country’s ranking in the Global Hunger Index is worse than that of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal, with India’s rank plummeting to 101 from 94.

The BJP may attempt to dodge questions but this time it is difficult as Chandrashekhar Rao has declared that he would not spare the BJP’s Goebbels campaign. The Chief Minister’s press meets have not only raised the curtain for an elaborate debate on the issue of paddy but also the concerns of farmers towards BJP’s orchestrated and systematic privatisation of the agriculture sector. He has raised opposition towards farm laws, procurement procedures, electricity meters and overall constitutional errors of State and Concurrent lists.

Taking these grave concerns further, the Chief Minister stepping out onto the streets to protest on behalf of farmers shall be a turning point for a national debate. The man, who brought several parties across the nation to support Telangana, can once again stitch a strong thread on behalf of farmers which can become a noose that the BJP cannot survive.

The BJP at the Centre cannot remain a mute spectator while its State unit spreads wrong information fooling farmers. Farmers across the nation have been protesting for a year, but with Telangana getting in the protest mode, the saffron party would be compelled to purchase paddy or perish politically.

(The author is a Research Scholar, Osmania University)

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