Ahead of Assembly elections, Chhattisgarh cabinet clears proposal to procure more paddy

With less than three months left for the Assembly polls in Chhattisgarh, the cabinet on Tuesday passed a proposal to procure more paddy from farmers. The ruling Congress and the Opposition BJP have been engaged in a tug of war over paddy procurement, a major election issue in the state known as dhaan ka katora (rice bowl).

The BJP says it is the central government that procures paddy from the state and that the Congress is just taking credit for it. The Congress says the state government’s Rajiv Gandhi Nyay Yojana gives input subsidy to farmers for growing paddy and that the scheme has benefited rice farmers.

The government will now buy 20 quintals of paddy per acre. Previously it bought 15 quintals of paddy per acre. Kharif paddy will be purchased from farmers at the support price from November 1, 2023 to January 31, 2024 and the payment will be made in cash.

Paddy procurement at Rs 2,500 per quintal was one of the Congress’s major poll promises in 2018. The Rajiv Gandhi Kisan Nyan Yojna was introduced to fulfil the promise. At present, a rice farmer gets Rs 2,640 per quintal for paddy. Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel has announced his government will give Rs 2,800 per quintal of paddy and buy 20 quintals from November 1.

On Monday Rural Development Minister Ravindra Choubey said at a Congress event in Bilaspur, “Under the Rajiv Gandhi Nyay Yojna, we procured paddy at Rs 2,640 per quintal and next year it will be Rs 2,800 per quintal. If we come to power, I promise the Congress government will procure paddy from farmers at Rs 3,000 (per quintal). In the second year it will be Rs 3,400 and after three years it will be Rs 3,600.”

Choubey clarified to The Indian Express on Tuesday that the figures are inclusive of the minimum support price (MSP) fixed by the central government.

BJP leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Piyush Goyal, minister for consumer affairs, food and public distribution, have accused the Congress of lying to the people over paddy procurement. And Baghel has levelled the same allegation against BJP leaders.

“In a letter written to me by CM Baghel, a demand was made to increase the quota of rice deposited under the central pool by the state from 61 lakh metric tonne (LMT) to 86.50 lakh MT in 2023-24. But in 2022-23, the state government deposited 61 LMT rice to the FCI under the scheme, but it has so far supplied just 53 lakh metric tonnes. They were unable to complete the quota for the previous year. So what is the point of increasing the quota this year?” Goyal said earlier this month in Chhattisgarh.

Baghel then hit back at the Union minister. “His work is only to lie. Four years ago, two ministers and I went to them with a request for the central government to buy our rice. At that time, the central government, specifically Piyush Goyal, told me I was paying Rs 2,500, which is more than the MSP, and they would not therefore increase our quota and that we had to sell the rice in the open market. Now he (Goyal) is lying again. First, they gave us a quota of 86 LTM and later brought it down to 61 LTM,” the chief minister said.

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