KCR takes u-turn, orders purchase of paddy through 6,400 procurement centers
The Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party welcomed the chief minister’s decision to procure paddy from the farmers, but said the decision was politically motivated in view of an upcoming Assembly bypoll.
In a u-turn, the Telangana government has decided to procure paddy from farmers during this rabi season by setting up as many as 6,408 procurement centres in the rural areas all over the state.
A decision to this effect was taken at a high-level review meeting called by chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao on Monday night. According to an official statement from the chief minister’s office, the decision was taken in the wake of the continuing Covid-19 pandemic.
The decision comes at a time when the farmers in many parts of the country have been agitating for several months against the contentious central legislations on agriculture that allow the farmers to sell their crops anywhere in the market and the state government won’t have to open purchasing centres to procure agriculture commodities.
Though the Telangana government initially opposed the central laws, it changed its stand later and declared that it won’t procure agricultural produce anymore. KCR, as the chief minister is known, announced in December last year that the process of sale and purchase of agricultural produce should be left to the market.
He went to the extent of saying that his government was not a business organisation or trader; neither a rice miller nor a dal miller. “Sale and purchase are not the responsibility of the government. It is not possible to set up a purchase centre in the village from next year onwards,” the chief minister said then.
But on Monday, the Telangana chief minister reverted to his old decision and announced procurement of paddy from the farmers this year, too, as was done in the past. He directed that the authorities make arrangements for procurement of paddy during the summer season through 6,408 centres in the villages all over the State.
He instructed principal secretary (finance) Ramakrishna Rao to make all arrangements to give bank guarantee for ₹20,000 crore towards paddy procurement. He asked chief secretary Somesh Kumar to conduct an emergency videoconference with all the collectors for the setting up of the procurement centres.
He asked agriculture minister Niranjan Reddy to monitor the setting up of the procurement centres and the procurement of paddy. He also instructed the minister and the chief secretary to take all precautions so that farmers were not put to any difficulty during procurement.
Out of 6,408 procurement centres, there will be 2,131 Indira Kranthi Patham (IKP) centres (rural markets), 3,964 primary agriculture cooperative societies (PACS) and 313 other smaller markets.
KCR also instructed that Minimum Support Price (MSP) be implemented and ensured while farmers bring their paddy to the centres. He asked the farmers to ensure that the paddy to be brought to the procurement centres should have not more than 17 per cent moisture. The farmers should ensure that the moisture percentage is less and they should follow conditions of the MSP.
The chief minister also instructed the officials to keep the 20 crore gunny bags ready at the procurement centres.
This summer season, paddy has been cultivated in 52.76 lakh acres, and it is expected that the yield would be 1.17 crore tonnes of the coarse variety Paddy and 21 lakh tonnes of fine variety paddy, the official note said.
KCR also asked the chief secretary to identify lands to be given on lease to the Central Ware Housing Corporation who are ready to construct additional warehouses to store the food grains.
The Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party welcomed the chief minister’s decision to procure paddy from the farmers, but said the decision was politically motivated.
“The government’s decision is a fallout of the agitations taken up by the Congress party in the last few months. We undertook padayatras and conducted farmers’ rallies all over the state and the chief minister has realised the seriousness of the situation,” Congress Legislature Party leader Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka said.
He also suspected that the decision was taken to appease the farmers in the wake of the ensuing bye-elections in Nagarjunsagar assembly constituency which has more than two lakh paddy farmers. The election is scheduled for April 17.
BJP official spokesman K Krishna Sagar Rao said KCR had earlier tried to ignore farmers on the pretext of central laws. “Now, he has gone back on his words only to woo farmers in the wake of bye-elections in Nagarjunsagar. In any case, we welcome the decision, as it gives relief to the farmers,” he said.