Hyderabad, April 13
Politics in Telangana these days revolve around paddy with both the ruling and opposition parties trying their best to politically cash in on the situation.
The decision of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government to procure paddy from farmers during ongoing Rabi season has not put an end to the row.
While the ruling party is projecting itself as the savior of farmers by coming forward to buy the produce from them despite the Centre refusing to procure paddy from the state, both major opposition parties, the Congress and the BJP, are claiming credit for this decision of the state government.
After the standoff with the Centre over the issue, the state cabinet on Tuesday decided to procure entire paddy from farmers. The decision came a day after Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao led a protest in Delhi against the Centre's "discriminatory approach towards Telangana".
Since he had set a 24-hour deadline before the BJP government to take a decision, the buzz in the political circle was that KCR may intensify the protest over the issue. However, in a total anti-climax, the state government announced that it will procure paddy from farmers though this may lead to a loss of Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,000 crore.
KCR claimed that by staging protests in Delhi, he has exposed the Narendra Modi government. "We have taken the decision to procure paddy so that farmers don't suffer," he said after the Cabinet meeting.
The TRS chief launched a bitter attack on the Central government and branded it anti-farmer. He maintained that the Centre will have to compensate for the loss the state will suffer due to procurement during Rabi season. He argued that since food security is the Constitutional duty of the Centre, it has to bear the losses.
As the farmers were getting restive due to the standoff between the state and the Centre, KCR assured them that his government will buy every single grain from them. He also asked farmers not to resort to distress sales.
"We will open procurement centres and the money will be credited into your bank accounts," he told the farmers.
With this move, the TRS leaders also claimed to have exposed the state leaders of the BJP. The ruling party recalled that when the government was advising farmers not to go for paddy cultivation during Rabi as the Centre was refusing to procure parboiled rice, state BJP leaders, including Union Minister G. Kishan Reddy, had instigated farmers to cultivate only paddy and assured them that they will make the Centre procure paddy.
Some farmers, alleged to be supporters of the TRS, dumped a tractor load of paddy in front of the residence of BJP MP Dharampauri Arvind in Nizamabad district to dare him to make the Centre procure paddy.
Interestingly, the BJP claimed the decision of TRS government as its victory. On the day when KCR led a protest in Delhi, state BJP leadership staged a 'dharna' in Hyderabad demanding KCR to either procure paddy from farmers or quit.
BJP state President Bandi Sanjay claimed victory over the TRS government. "This is what we have been demanding the TRS government from the beginning but they were busy playing politics," he said.
The Congress, which was targeting both the TRS and the BJP governments over the issue, claimed that it was due to the pressure mounted by them through protests that the TRS government has relented.
"Both the TRS and the BJP were playing politics and cheating farmers and it was due to the protest by Congress that the TRS government has come forward to procure paddy," said state Congress chief A. Revanth Reddy.
Going a step further, the Congress demanded a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the alleged malpractices and corruption in rice supply to the Food Corporation of India.
The Congress leaders submitted a memorandum to Governor Tamilisai Soundararjan, seeking the CBI probe in the light of a statement by Kishan Reddy that the Telangana government did not hand over, to the FCI, the paddy/rice of more than 8 lakh tonnes that was procured in the last two Kharif seasons.
Kishan Reddy raised doubts about where that rice was lying and wondered if it was siphoned off in the black market.
Congress leaders said if the allegations made by the Union Minister are correct, they are serious charges of corruption worth thousands of crores. "Hence, we request an inquiry by the CBI and punish the culprits, however big they are holding positions in the state government," the Congress demanded.
Meanwhile, with the government deciding to procure the entire paddy, Chief Secretary Somesh Kumar on Wednesday held a teleconference with District Collectors, Additional Collectors, Agriculture, Marketing, and Civil Supplies department officials and took stock of the situation in the respective districts.
He instructed the Collectors to set up a special control room to daily monitor the progress of paddy procurement in the district. A special control room is also being set up at the state level.
Somesh Kumar said a meeting should be held immediately involving the ministers and senior officials to formulate an action plan for paddy procurement in the district. Elaborate measures should be made at the paddy procurement centres and should be inaugurated immediately. Collectors, Additional Collectors, and other senior officials should daily visit at least four paddy procurement centres.
The Chief Secretary directed that the number of centres should be more than those set up last year. A special officer should be appointed for every procurement centre to monitor the operations. Emphasis should be laid on procuring gunny bags under the supervision of a special officer exclusively for procuring these. The services of the agricultural extension officers should be totally utilised for paddy procurement to ensure that the farmers get the minimum support price. which has been fixed at Rs 1,960 per quintal.