Strange Fruit in the Fields

A new scheme to com­pen­sate farm­ers for their pro­duce hasn’t gone down well

India Today - - STATES - By Rahul Noronha

The Bhaa­van­tar Bhug­tan Yo­jana (BBY) or the price deficit fi­nanc­ing scheme for agri pro­duce, which came into force on Oc­to­ber 16, is not prov­ing to be the panacea for farm­ers it was built up to be. Un­der the scheme, an­nounced in the af­ter­math of the po­lice fir­ing on farm­ers in western MP in June amid al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion and mas­sive wastage of pro­cured onion stocks, the state would not pro­cure stocks on its own. In­stead, the farm­ers would be paid the dif­fer­ence be­tween the MSP and mo­dal price of eight crops cov­ered un­der the scheme. If the sale price was higher than the mo­dal price, the farmer would get the dif­fer­ence be­tween MSP and sale price. How­ever, a fort­night into the scheme, the Bhaa­van­tar price mech­a­nism has be­come an­other quag­mire.

The farm­ers have found the pro­cure­ment process with its reg­is­tra­tions and checks quite daunt­ing. Traders have also been with­hold­ing cash pay­ments and re­fus­ing to make on­line pay­ments—of­fer­ing post-dated cheques in­stead—cit­ing gov­ern­ment or­ders. There have al­ready been ag­i­ta­tions at sev­eral man­dis across the state.

On the face of it, it seems traders had formed car­tels to sup­press prices, es­pe­cially in the case of urad. While the MSP for urad stands at Rs 5,400 per quin­tal, it is be­ing pro­cured at Rs 2,000-2,200 per quin­tal. The gov­ern­ment ini­tially put up a brave face. “The pre-bhaa­van­tar im­ple­men­ta­tion prices are in the same range as the post-im­ple­men­ta­tion prices, ex­cept for urad. We will check

OF THE 8.5 MN FARM­ERS IN THE STATE, ONLY 1.9 MN HAVE JOINED THE SCHEME SO FAR

pro­cure­ment minutely to pre­vent carteli­sa­tion,” said prin­ci­pal sec­re­tary, agri­cul­ture, Ra­jesh Ra­jora.

Sens­ing a po­ten­tial blow-up, es­pe­cially dur­ing the cru­cial over­lap­ping months of kharif har­vest and rabi sow­ing, the gov­ern­ment has gone out of its way to soothe tem­pers. Chief Min­is­ter Shivraj Singh Chouhan, on his re­turn from the US, im­me­di­ately an­nounced a slew of mea­sures to smoothen things out. He also an­nounced that traders would be able to pay up to Rs 50,000 in cash to farm­ers and the rest through RTGS.

The traders ini­tially cried foul (de­lay­ing pay­outs was al­ways prof­itable) but were soon brought in line. The state is now also pay­ing for the trans­porta­tion of the pro­duce, from farm to the mar­ket. The CM also said that mo­dal prices for ev­ery crop would be an­nounced monthly. The state gov­ern­ment ex­pects about 5.6 mil­lion tonnes of crop pur­chases through bhaa­van­tar at a cost of around Rs 3,600 crore—to be split evenly by the Cen­tre and state.

Whether all this will help is yet to be seen. The Congress, ex­pect­edly, is not un­happy with the sit­u­a­tion. “The farm­ers are not ex­cited about the scheme as is ev­i­dent in the num­ber of reg­is­tra­tions,” says Op­po­si­tion leader Ajay Singh. There are about 8.5 mil­lion farm­ers in MP (only 1.9 mil­lion have reg­is­tered for the scheme so far) and their im­por­tance as a po­lit­i­cal group is not lost on any­one. The last thing Chouhan needs–in the run up to the as­sem­bly elec­tions—is an­other farmer ag­i­ta­tion.

BAD SEEDS Farm­ers protest­ing at the Agar mandi, Agar Malwa district

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