In an effort to woo the rural voters ahead of the assembly elections, chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda on Monday threatened to launch a massive agitation against the Centre on poor pricing of Pusa-1509 variety of rice.
Addressing a political rally in support of the Congress candidates from Nilokheri assembly constituency Gian Chand Sahota, Hooda said he was upset over the poor prices being offered to the farming community for various crops, including Pusa 1509.
In a scathing attack at the Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA government at the Centre, Hooda called the union government as insensitive to poor, farmers and middle-class people.
Last year, farmers were paid more than Rs 3,400 per quintal for Pusa 1509 but owing to poor policies of the Centre, the price came down between `2,200 and Rs 2,400 per quintal, claimed Hooda.
“Mere man mein itna dard aur gussa hai ke main chahta hoon ke yahi par dharna pe bait jaayun. Par ek mukhya mantri hone ki vajah se main aisa nahin karunga. Par ek chetawani deta hoon Centre ki sarkar ko, agar 1509 (basmati rice variety) ke daam kisanao ko theek nahin diye to ek bahut bada agitation shuru karunga,” he said while appealing to the gathering to support him when he starts an agitation.
Taraori is a hub of basmati rice production in India and has several milling units. Sizeable portion of basmati rice exported to various countries is produced at Taraori and adjoining areas.
Meanwhile, calling for Sahota’s victory, Hooda said the BJP and Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) were known for their anti-people policies whereas the Congress had always worked for the poor and marginal sections of society.
“The BJP won the parliamentary elections due to hype but its real face of being a party of rich has started emerging. There has been a steep increase in rail fare, while prices of diesel, sugar, vegetable, etc., have skyrocketed after the NDA assumed power. Sahota is a down to earth man and he will work for the progress of this area,” said Hooda.
He asked voters not to be disillusioned by claims made by INLD leader Om Prakash Chautala that he would take oath as chief minister from Tihar jail, where he is serving a jail term in connection with the JBT teachers’ recruitment scandal.
“After conviction, he cannot even contest election; then how could he think of becoming a CM? The INLD is desperate for power and thus its jailed leaders are making false claims,” said Hooda.
‘CM making an issue out of nothing’
Belying chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s claim, those associated with rice industry say governments have no role in controlling the prices of basmati varieties. Industry sources claim that Hooda was trying to make an issue out of nothing.
“Basmati falls in free trade category and its prices are not fixed either by the Centre or the state government. Prices of basmati are determined on the demand and supply in the open market and the Congress leadership is trying to confuse people to gain political mileage out of it,” said a source in the rice industry.
Rice millers said the state government could have asked its own commercial entities like Hafed to buy Pusa-1509 variety of basmati to create an impression in the market that there were serious buyers and it may boost prices. But the election code of conduct would not permit any such announcement and the Congress leadership in Haryana is making unfounded claims, they added.
“An arrangement for purchase of a portion of the produce by Hafed, a commercial venture, could have brought some relief to farmers. But it is wrong to call it a flop crop or the one that fetches poor prices to farmers. Pusa 1509 produces nearly 24 quintal of rice from 1 acre and farmers are getting up to `75,000 for their yield. The variety introduced in Haryana last year has already been sown on nearly 25% area and it expected to increase manifold in the next paddy sowing season,” says a leading rice exporter.
Sahota HSTSB member or not?
According to the nomination papers filed Gian Chand Sahota, the Congress nominee from Nilokheri (SC) assembly segment, he is an ex-member of Haryana School Teachers Selection Board (HSTSB).
However, the official website of the board that recently appointed over 10,000 lecturers, shows Sahota still as its member.
At the election rally, Sahota said he was completely committed to Hooda and his policies. “I have been working silently for the development of Nilokheri for the last four years. I am here to dedicate myself to the welfare for all sections of society,” said Sahota, who was handpicked by Hooda government to as a member of the HSTSB in February 2012.
HSSC member at election rally
Presence of a member of Haryana Staff Selection Commission, Lalit Kumar Butana at the election rally on Monday raised several eyebrows.
Butana remained seated at the dais shared by Hooda and Congress candidate Sahota at the election rally. Considered a close aide of Hooda, Butana hails from a family of Congressmen and he was also handpicked by the Hooda government for the Haryana Staff Selection Commission.
Butana’s father late Chanda Singh was first elected in 1968 as an Independent legislator from the Ror-dominated Nilokheri segment in the district and was re-elected in 1982. Singh then joined the Congress and became transport minister in the-then Bhajan Lal government.