Amid protests against the three farm laws introduced by the Centre, a crisis is brewing in Rajasthan over bajra, with farmers getting rates far below the minimum support price (MSP) in the state.
BJP MLA and Rajasthan Deputy Leader of Opposition Rajendra Rathore tweeted on Monday that he has written to Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot demanding government procurement of bajra at MSP. “Rajasthan has seen a bumper production of bajra in 2020-21 but non-procurement at MSP shows the lack of sensitivity of the government towards farmers,” he said.
However, Naveen Jain, Secretary, Food and Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs Department, said that at present there is no plan of procuring bajra. He added that barring 2011, when only around 100 tonnes of bajra was procured by the state government, Rajasthan has never procured bajra at MSP.
Rajasthan procures agricultural commodities such as mustard, moong, groundnut etc at MSP, apart from wheat, which is procured by the Food Corporation of India (FCI) through the state government.
For the Kharif 2020-21 season, the Central government has fixed the MSP of bajra at Rs 2,150 per quintal. However, according to data on the government website agmarknet.gov.in, the maximum price for bajra between December 18 and 19 was Rs 1,300 at the Khairthal agricultural mandi in Alwar.
Farmer leaders say that as a result, farmers from areas such as Khairthal have been trying to sell their bajra in neigbouring Haryana, where government procurement is taking place at MSP. Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar recently said he would not allow Rajasthan farmers to sell bajra in the state.
Rampal Jat, national president of the Kisan Mahapanchayat who is leading a protest on the Rajasthan-Haryana border against the new Central farm laws, says farmers from Rajasthan have little choice but to go to Haryana. Last month, Jat had written to the government saying Rajasthan produces 43.9% of the bajra in the country, and if government procurement doesn’t start, farmers in the state will sustain a loss of “around Rs 43.6 billion”.
“They go to Haryana because while they have to sell at between Rs 1,100 and Rs 1,300 here, they are getting Rs 2,100 there. It is unbecoming of the Haryana CM to say that Rajasthan farmers won’t be allowed to sell their bajra in Haryana. When the government of India has declared an MSP, it is its duty to procure, irrespective of the agency involved in the procurement,” Jat, a former BJP leader, said.
Rajasthan Education Minister and state Congress president Govind Singh Dotasara, who earlier said Khattar’s statement exposes the BJP’s “lies”, told The Indian Express on Monday, “When the new farm laws talk about one nation one market, then how can you say that you won’t buy a particular commodity? If they are saying that the new farm Bills are for the benefit of farmers, then why aren’t they letting the farmers avail the benefit? This means that the laws are only for facilitating black marketing and purchasing lands of farmers at throwaway prices.”
On Rathore’s letter demanding bajra procurement, Dotasara asked why the BJP hadn’t done so during its time in power. “Aren’t they concerned about the farmers or didn’t they get the approval of the Centre? The procurement at MSP is done by the Central government while the Rajasthan government only makes the resources available. If the Central government asks us to purchase the commodity and says that the Centre will pay us, then the state starts the procurement,” Dotasra said.
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