Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s conspicuous silence over demanding relief from the Centre for hail-hit farmers of Madhya Pradesh has come as a surprise to political observers.
While the chief minister has embarked on a whirlwind tour of the affected areas, his government has not made any formal demand from the Union government, confirmed sources in the revenue department.
Interestingly, when a similar disaster had hit the state last year, Chouhan had shown an extraordinary promptness in demanding aid from then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh even before a survey report on damage to crops was prepared.
The CM, along with his cabinet colleagues, had also sat on a dharna in the state capital to protest against the UPA’s alleged apathy towards the demand. Ministers in the state government and bureaucrats too evaded questions when asked to quantify the total loss.
When approached, government spokesperson Narottam Mishra said the state government would take all necessary measures to help farmers, including readjustments in budgetary allocations of other departments.
But he refused to comment when asked why the state government had not demanded a relief packagefrom the Central government till now.
"Let the initial survey report arrive. Only then we will be in a position to prepare a proposal and send it to the central government," revenue minister Rampal Singh told Hindustan Times recently.
However, sources in the Shivraj government revealed that the state government was doubtful that extra funds from the Centre could be dispensed with and was therefore adopting a cautious approach.
"Perhaps this is the reason why losses are being undervalued," said a senior bureaucrat, on not wishing to be quoted, said.
A latest assessment of the state's agriculture department states suggests that wheat, gram, pulses, coriander and mustard crops have suffered extensive damage in about 2,000 villages in 25 districts.
Meanwhile, taking advantage of the government’s silence, the Congress has launched an offensive on the issue now. Congress MPs from Madhya Pradesh met the prime minister earlier this week and demanded Rs1,000-crore relief package for the hail-hit farmers.
"Crop cutting experiment to start immediately"
Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has said crop cutting experiment will be started at the earliest to provide benefit of crop insurance scheme to farmers whose crops have been affected by hailstorm and untimely rains last week.
Crop cutting experiment is done to ascertain the magnitude of crop loss and is done best immediately after the impact of extreme weather.
Addressing farmers after taking stock of crop loss at villages of Seoni district, Chouhan said the state government has arranged Rs500 crore to help affected farmers and they need not worry. More funds will be given, if needed.
Survey work is continuing on a large scale with total transparency. Loss of more than 50% will be treated as 100% damage.
Lists of surveys will be displayed at gram panchayat buildings for people to see and critique. Survey will be undertaken afresh, if needed, he explained.