The Chhattisgarh government on Wednesday attempted to assuage angry farmers in the state by announcing a paddy bonus of Rs 300 per quintal for the year 2016-17. The announcement said the bonus would be distributed in instalments. At the state BJP office, Chief Minister Raman Singh said the bonus would be disbursed before Diwali and the move would benefit 13 lakh farmers.
The issue of the paddy bonus and a minimum support price for farmers has been one of the primary political sticking points as these were the cornerstone policies of the BJP’s election manifesto for the agriculture sector. The BJP has in recent months been coming under increasing fire, not only from the Congress and the Chhattisgarh Janata Congress, but farmer unions and organisations that have been protesting against “anti-farmer policies” of the state government and its failure to live up to promises. Two days ago, at an event in the Indira Gandhi Agriculture University, Chief Minister Singh was heckled by farmers’ groups and reportedly left the programme early.
On Wednesday, the BJP called a meeting of all MLAs and MPs from across the state, and once it was over, Chief Minister Raman Singh announced the bonus for the year 2016-17 which he said would cost the exchequer Rs 2,100 crore. He also said the bonus for the current financial year would be given during a “vikas yatra” next year.
He thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi who, he said, was sensitive to the condition of farmers in the state, as well as BJP chief Amit Shah as well as other senior BJP leaders.
The Opposition parties and farmer organisations, however, have responded sceptically, saying the government had promised a paddy bonus and a minimum support price every year and this was only a political move.
Congress state chief Bhupesh Baghel said if the government was sincere, it would give farmers the bonus for all the years the BJP has been in power.
Farmer organisations such as the Kisan Mazdoor Sangh said with the current state of low rainfall in many parts of Chhattisgarh, farmers also needed a loan waiver.