Chouhan goes all out to woo farmers in poll year

Bhopal: Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has played his trump card ahead of the assembly elections, raining sops on February 12 to placate farmers. Of the 23 promises he made in a 50-minute speech, two big ones stood out — Rs 200 bonus for wheat and paddy and a tweaking of the popular Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana to offer free warehousing to farmers.
The big announcement comes 12 days before the Mungaoli and Kolaras bypolls. Going by the scale of it, it will be difficult for the CM to outdo it over the next nine months till the state polls. Even sharecroppers will now get all benefits, and can rent out farmland for five years.
“We will give a bonus of Rs 200 per quintal on procurement price of wheat and paddy for 2016-17 under the CM Agriculture Productivity Scheme. I announce Rs 200 per quintal as bonus on wheat and paddy to compensate the loss borne by farmers. Not only this, the government will procure wheat and paddy at MSP of Rs 2,000 per quintal,” Chouhan announced at a Kisan Sammelan at Jamburi Maidan. “We’ll turn the ravines of Chambal into lush green farmland at an expense of Rs 1,200 crore and provide land to landless and small-time farmers.”
The gathering was called to disburse Rs 620 crore to to 3.98 lakh Bhavantar beneficiaries, but the CM turned it into an election rally — covering nearly aspect of farming, from loans and storage and irrigation and sharecropping. Returning to the mike thrice to reiterate his promises and even included compensation for crop damage in Sunday’s surprise hailstorm.
Though the chief minister did not reveal the budgetary allocation for the sops, sources said provisions would be made in the Budget for the year 2018-19. Rabi crop will be procured at “much higher rates” than the previous year, he promised, extending the Bhavantar benefits to onion, gram, lentil and mustard. Last year, wheat was procured at Rs 1,725 per quintal. This year, it will be hiked to Rs 2,000. MSP for paddy, too, would be increased in the coming season, Chouhan said.
Always in his elements in the company of farmers, he threw open the Bhavantar change to the gathering. “Only if you agree, we will make this change. Do you say ‘yes’,” he asked. “Yes,” the crowd roared back. “We have made a few changes in Bhavantar. Farmers can now store their crop in warehouses if they feel they are not getting adequate return of their crop and could make more from the market after a few months. The government will provide warehouse facility to them for free for four months and will also allow them to take 25% loan of the total cost of the produce on zero interest. The government will pay interest on their behalf,” said Chouhan.
If farmers don’t get MSP after four months, the government will “purchase their crop under BBY”, the CM announced. “We have decided to provide financial support to farmers. The government will open 1,000 custom processing and service centres, one in each block,” he added. Grading and packaging plants will be set in 50 agriculture markets, Kisan Credit Card converted into Rupee Card and agriculture committees will now have micro ATM facility, he said .
Under the CM Young Farmer Entrepreneurship Scheme, the government will provide a loan of Rs 2 crore and 15% subsidy to each farmer. What’s more, the government will repay 5% interest on it till 7 years.
State agriculture minister Gaurishankar Bisen announced that six tractor training centres will be opened where rural youth will be given capsule courses in repair and maintenance of tractors.
During the CM’s speech, a group of farmers from Malwa expressed anguish over non-payment of crop insurance since 2015. They raised slogans during the meeting but BJP top brass pacified them by allowing their leader to meet the CM after the rally.
Congress had petitioned the EC to stop the kisan rally because the two bypolls are less than two weeks away. Chouhan accused Congress of trying to postpone the Sammelan for vested interests. “Opposition leaders are apprehensive of the initiatives taken by the BJP government in the favour of farmers. Has Congress ever come close to what the BJP has done for farmers?” Chouhan said.
Congress dismissed the mega promises as “poll gimmickry”. PCC chief Arun Yadav challenged the CM to announce a timeline for his pledges. “In the past 14 years, the BJP and CM Chouhan could not give suitable prices to farmers. How will the government pay adequate price now? While announcing all these sops, the chief minister should also have set a deadline for implementation,” Yadav said.
“The government had claimed there would be more than 2.5 lakh farmers at the convention. Hardly 15,000 turned up. And the crowd mostly comprised BJP workers and municipal corporation employees,” alleged Yadav. BJP leaders said that Sunday’s hailstorm and gale affected attendance as farmers were busy protecting their crop.

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