New Delhi: The long-brewing discontent in Telangana over the Centre’s paddy procurement policy spilled on to the national capital’s streets Monday, with Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao (KCR) and members of his ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), staging a protest in Delhi. Rao also issued a 24-hour ultimatum to the Centre to respond to his state’s request of a uniform procurement policy, otherwise the protest would be taken across India.
“I request Prime Minister Narendra Modi and (Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Minister) Piyush Goyal to procure crops uniformly across the country including Telangana. Please buy our food grains. We will wait for the next 24 hours; after that, we will make a decision and will go after you,” said Rao.
Telangana has seen a massive rise in paddy production over the past few years — largely due to the state government’s irrigation projects — forcing the government to increase procurement. However, with supply outstripping demand, the Centre has refused to continue procuring parboiled rice produced in the rabi (winter) season, citing full stocks and the drain on the exchequer.
Minister Goyal had earlier asked how Telangana could make “meaningless” demands like the Centre procuring all the paddy produced by the state in the rabi season. He had also alleged that the state government had failed to intimate the Centre about the quality of raw rice it would supply to the Food Corporation of India (FCI) in the rabi season, despite repeated reminders.
The Centre through the FCI, procures paddy procured by state governments from farmers. In case of custom milled rice for example, “the FCI procures almost 70 per cent of total rice procured for the central pool”.
KCR was joined by farmers’ leader Rakesh Tikait, and MPs and MLAs of the TRS, at Monday’s protest at Delhi’s Telangana Bhawan. Amid chants of ‘Jai KCR’, the Telangana CM delivered a speech in Hindi, intentionally referring to Goyal as Piyush “Golmaal” (Hindi for swindling). He also asked the minister to respond the state’s demands.
“The central government is not only discriminating against Telangana, but farmers as well. They do not have any concerns for the farmers. They are corporate friendly, they want to make sure that the farmer suffers. Whether it’s the upcoming electricity bills, the MSP (minimum support price) guarantee scheme that they promised and never acted upon, or the procurement policy — nothing is farmer friendly in this nation,” alleged K. Kavitha, former MP, and current Member of the Legislative Council for Kamareddy and Nizamabad MLA and KCR’s daughter.
“Telangana state has proved that one can be farmer-friendly as a government. We have made sure we give 24-hour power supply to the farmers, give Rs 10,000 per acre to the farmers, and provide free water to the farmers. Despite doing all these things, our farmers are still suffering because of overproduction. Now this is where we want the central government to step in and help out farmers, which they are not doing,” she added.
‘Confusion from Centre’s side’
Kavitha claimed that while the state government has been raising the issue of central procurement for a while, the Centre has not been clear about its policy.
“Every season this becomes an issue. We were constantly requesting the central government that during the beginning of the year, you give a yearly calendar telling us how much paddy you want to procure from which state and what is the quantity that we should tell our farmers to sow, but they did not do that,” claimed Kavitha.
“Then every season they give a knee-jerk reaction, and give us a certain number that you give us this much raw rice, and this much boiled rice etc. There is a confusion from the Centre’s side. We are asking don’t categorise ‘raw’ or ‘parboiled’ rice, take the whole paddy that is being produced in Telangana. This is our single demand and we are also demanding for a uniform procurement policy,” she added.
The MLC added that the TRS’s next course of action will be decided based on the central response to its ultimatum.
‘Buying all paddy from Punjab, but not from us’
Other TRS senior leaders too accused the Centre of creating difficulties for the state’s paddy farmers because of its procurement policy.
“For the last one year, all Telangana farmers have been on the roads. They have asked all public representatives to go to Delhi and fight for their cause. Having fought for 14 years, we got Telangana (the state was carved out of Andhra Pradesh in 2014), and we will fight for this cause in the same way,” said G. Ranjith Reddy, a TRS Lok Sabha MP from the state’s Chevella constituency.
Accusing the Centre of turning back on previous claims of paddy procurement from the state, Reddy claimed: “Telangana, which was earlier a backward state, is the number one state, because of our focus on agriculture. But because of the Centre’s political interest, they are not supporting us. What did we do wrong? We are also a part of the country. Telangana farmers are part of the nation’s farmers. So we are just requesting them to buy all the produce, not just from Telangana but from other states as well.”
Insisting on the common procurement policy, TRS state secretary Tareq Ansari told ThePrint, “we have come here to ask for our rights, and not to beg for anything from the central government. Why are there different policies with different states? This is intolerable. Just like how we got a different state in the leadership of KCR sir, we are here again, having arrived from ‘Gully to Delhi’, to ask for our rights”.
“From Punjab, they are buying all the paddy, but not from us. We are struggling to sell the produce. We are taking care of all the needs of the farmers by providing them water, electricity etc. The Centre must help too,” Ansari added.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)
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