Sale, purchase of farm yield not govt job: Telangana CM K Chandrasekhar Rao
The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government headed by chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao has backtracked on its opposition to the three central laws aimed at liberalising agricultural trade, and decided to leave the purchase of farm produce to private buyers.
According to a statement from the chief minister’s office, the government set up purchasing centres in the countryside during the last season and purchased all the agriculture produce that landed in the centres on humanitarian grounds so that farmers would not suffer losses in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The government incurred losses to the tune of Rs 7,500 crore from the purchase of paddy, sorghum, maize, red gram and Bengal gram, the statement said. Although the government paid Minimum Support Prices (MSP) for the crops, it had to sell them at lower prices in the market because there was no demand
“The government cannot do it anymore. It is not a business organisation or trader. It is not a rice miller or a dal miller. Sale and purchase are not the responsibility of government. It is not possible to set up purchase centres in the villages from next year onwards,” the statement said.
The statement was released after an official meeting convened on Sunday by chief minister Chandrasekhar Rao, who has hitherto steadfastly opposed the three farm laws passed by the Narendra Modi government in September.
Farm unions have launched one of the largest strikes in decades to demand that the Centre revoke the three contentious laws approved by Parliament in September. The laws essentially change the way India’s farmers do business by creating free markets, as opposed to a network of decades-old, government marketplaces, allowing traders to stockpile essential commodities for future sales and laying down a national framework for contract farming.
These laws are The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020. Together, the laws will allow big corporations and global supermarket chains to buy directly from farmers, bypassing decades-old regulations.
Farmers say the reforms will make them vulnerable to exploitation by big corporations, erode their bargaining power and weaken the government’s procurement system, whereby the government buys staples, such as wheat and rice, at guaranteed rates, known as minimum support prices (MSPs).
At Sunday’s meeting, the Telangana chief minister told officials that since the new farm laws were being implemented across the country, allowing farmers to sell their produce anywhere, there was no need for the state government to purchase farm commodities any longer. He suggested that farmers not bring their entire produce to the markets at one time but in portions so that they get a better price.
On December 8, TRS leaders and cadre, led by party working president and the CM’s son K T Rama Rao, took part in the Bharat Bandh (India shutdown) to oppose the new farm laws.
KCR, as the TRS leader is popularly known, said he would hold a national conclave in the third week of December and invite all anti-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) forces to protest against anti-farmer and anti-labour policies of the central government. He said he would build a national consensus against the new agriculture laws.
But there is no more any talk about the proposed conclave. “We cannot afford to get into a confrontation with the Centre at present because it will affect the state’s interests,” a former TRS MP, who is presently in a key position in the government, said on condition of anonymity.
Telangana BJP state president Bandi Sanjay welcomed the change in stand of the TRS government on the farm laws. “At least now, KCR has opened his eyes and understood the reality on the benefits of the new laws,” he said.
Senior Congress leader and Kisan Congress national vice-president M Kodanda Reddy lashed out at the chief minister for the U-turn. “It is unfortunate that the government is shying away from its responsibility of purchasing agricultural produce at MSPs,” he said.
Reddy alleged that KCR had changed his stand after recently meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah. “He didn’t even bother calling on lakhs of farmers who were agitating on the Delhi borders, braving the winter chill,” he said.