While Prime Minister Narendra Modi has underlined “cooperative federalism” as the bedrock of his collaboration with state governments, Ramvilas Paswan-led Food Ministry’s order restricting procurement of foodgrains has drawn sharp protests from the BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
While Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh is learnt to have red-flagged the move during his meeting with Paswan in Raipur recently, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan was learnt to have voiced objections against the move during his meeting with Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh.
The Food Ministry, in a recent directive to all the state governments, cautioned them against giving bonuses over and above the minimum support price (MSP) to farmers for procurement of wheat and paddy.
Paswan’s ministry told the state governments that it will not provide food subsidy, in form of MSP payments, for additional foodgrains procured by the state governments over and above their requirement for the Public Distribution System. The order in a way put the onus of providing MSP on the state governments procuring surplus grains than what is required within the state. Traditionally, it the central government which bears the MSP costs for procurement of wheat and paddy across the country.
“We have demanded the central government to cancel this directive. The state government offers bonus only to benefit farmers. This is in the interest of farmers. After all, state governments act only as an agent of the central government for procurement,” Chhattisgarh Food Minister Punnulal Mohale told The Indian Express. Mohale, who was in Delhi, said he raised the issue at the state food ministers’ conference on Friday as well.
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Madhya Pradesh Food Minister Vijay Shah told The Indian Express , “The state government is giving bonus only to encourage farmers. The bonus is anyway funded by the state exchequer. This encouragment has got the farmers in the state stay invested in agriculture, resulting in about 20 per cent growth in agriculture in the state for the past few years. The central government’s order is disappointing for the farmers. I have requested the food minister to reconsider this issue. In fact, I handed over the chief Minister’s letter requesting to reconsider this order to Food Minister Paswan.”
Chouhan had raised this issue with Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh recently requesting him to get the order cancelled for the benefit of wheat farmers in his state. Chouhan and Shah had also taken up this matter personally with Paswan during his recent visit to Bhopal.
While several states like Rajasthan, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Bihar offer bonus for procurement either of paddy or wheat, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh are likely to suffer the most as these states have started massive procurement riding on their bonus offer. The Food Ministry’s order in a way will bind these states to pay not only the bonus but also the MSP for the additional foodgrains procured by them. Riding on their practice of offering bonuses, both these states have emerged as major food contributors to the central pool. So much that Madhya Pradesh has become the second largest wheat contributor to the central government, displacing Haryana for the second year in a row.