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New Delhi: After Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh’s letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requesting him not to allow Geographical Indication (GI) tag for basmati rice grown in Madhya Pradesh, the state’s CM, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, has shot off a letter to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, saying her party leaders are working against the interest of MP farmers.

In the letter written Friday, Chouhan said both Singh and former MP chief minister Kamal Nath’s stance was anti-farmer.

Chouhan has also written to PM Modi on 6 August, criticising the Punjab CM and requested the prime minister to allow GI tag for MP’s basmati rice as it’s been a long-pending issue of the state.

A GI tag recognises a product as distinctive to a particular region. Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand and some parts of Uttar Pradesh, and Jammu and Kashmir have GI tags for basmati rice.

“It saddens me to tell you that chief minister of Congress-ruled Punjab Amarinder Singh has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking not to give GI tag to basmati rice grown in Madhya Pradesh. The letter is unfortunate. What Amarinder ji is asking is anti-farmer and it shows the Congress’ anti-farmer nature,” Chouhan wrote in the strongly-worded letter.

Why is the Congress against the farmers of Madhya Pradesh, he asked in the letter.

Slamming Kamal Nath, the Madhya Pradesh CM further said that Rahul Gandhi had promised waiver of farm loans within 10 days of forming the Congress government in the state, but “Kamal Nath made a joke of it”.

“Why is Congress so disturbed if MP farmers make progress? Not just me, all farmers of MP are asking this to you. I expect an answer soon,” he said.

Talking about basmati rice grown in his state, Chouhan said: “You must be aware that Madhya Pradesh’s basmati rice has a great taste and is known in the country and the world for its good aroma.

“Giving the (GI) tag to Madhya Pradesh basmati rice will enhance the value of Indian basmati in the international market and will also benefit the whole country in trade,” he added.

Chouhan had last month met Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and requested him to facilitate the GI tag for MP-grown basmati.

Also read: Cheaper China rice, high MSP — what non-basmati exporters are blaming for dip in trade

‘Asking for a GI tag under the GI Act of India’

In his letter to PM Modi, Amarinder Singh had last week said that proliferation of GI tags to any more states will dilute the market value of basmati rice in the international market and benefit Pakistan, who also grows basmati rice.

But Chouhan wrote: “We are asking for a GI tag under the GI Act of India. It is an intra-country issue, not inter-country claims of basmati rice. The case of Agriculture and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) with Pakistan has no connection with the claims of Madhya Pradesh. They (Kamal Nath government) have also not deposited the premium under the crop Insurance scheme and it is my government which has now deposited the premium of Rs 2,200 crore,” he wrote.

“We are not against the GI tag of Punjab basmati, then why is the Congress trying so hard for MP to not get it? It shows the mindset of Kamal Nath ji. He is not speaking against Amarinder Singh…” he added.

Madhya Pradesh wants 13 of its districts to be included for GI tag for basmati. In June, MP Agriculture Minister Kamal Patel had said the state government would move the Supreme Court to challenge the decision of the Madras High Court, which had dismissed a petition filed against the exclusion of basmati rice produced in the state from the GI tag list.

Earlier this year, the state government and rice growers association had lost two separate cases in the Madras High Court filed in 2016, challenging the exclusion of 13 districts of the state from a map submitted by the APEDA for GI tags.

‘Need to brand basmati rice’

Talking to ThePrint, minister Patel said: “We have requested Narendra Singh Tomar to facilitate our request. It’s a long-pending issue of MP. He has assured support in acquiring the GI tag for MP basmati.”

“We are exporting to several countries and exports are expanding. There is a need to brand them (rice),” he added.

Meanwhile, Kamal Nath, in a statement Friday, said Chouhan is only doing politics over the issue.

“This reflects how much understanding he has of the issue. He just wants to do politics and he has nothing to do with farmers and the interest of the state,” he added.

Also read: A ‘smart’ device will test rice quality now as govt says manual system promotes corruption


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