The poor in Madhya Pradesh will end up consuming inferior wheat unlike their counterparts elsewhere who have access to the state’s better quality of grain through the central quota.
Unseasonal rain and hailstorm had taken a toll on the wheat crop, forcing the government to compromise on quality while buying grain from farmers, the biggest political constituents in the state. The government began procuring grain up to 40 per cent less shine, before revising the criterion to 20 per cent.
The Food Corporation of India said it will accept the central quota, from which the central government meets its PDS requirements, grain only up to 10 per cent less shine.
The MP government, which incidentally pays bonus over and above the minimum support price, agreed it will keep the inferior variety (between 10 and 20 per cent less shine) to meet its PDS and other food-based schemes.
The state needs about 30 lakh MT wheat for its own consumption, and it has already procured around 70 lakh MT with only a day to go before procurement centers wind up the process.
Government officials admit that a lot of inferior wheat has been purchased this season in view of general elections. The government dug out a 10-year-old circular that allowed it to buy wheat up to 40 per cent less shine, but the FCI objected to it.
After the natural disaster, the MP government had revised its procurement estimates for Rabi 2014-15 from 110 lakh MT to 80 lakh MT. The circular issued by the Food and Civil Supplies and Consumer Protection Department to district collectors on April 30 was unambiguous.
It told them to buy wheat up to 20 per cent less shine, and mark the sacks containing wheat between 10 and 20 per cent shine as ‘Z’.
Out of the 51 districts only Jabalpur, Katni, Mandla, Dindori, Chhindwara, Balaghat, Narsinghpur and Seoni were exempted from the circular’s purview. Farmers’ Welfare and Agriculture Development Minister Gaurishanker Bisen said the fact that the government procured much less than the initial estimate of 110 lakh MT was proof that it rejected the lots that were really inferior, but admitted “the government has to make some compromises”.
MP buys wheat at Rs 1,550 per quintal, including the bonus, a practice now emulated by other states.
MD of MP Civil Supplies Corporation Chandrahas Dubey said inferior quality wheat was purchased from a few districts like Shajapur and Ujjain, but did not elaborate on the volumes.
Last year, MP procured only 63.50 lakh MT though the crop had suffered lesser damage due to natural causes.
Suresh Gurjar of the Bhartiya Kisan Sangh, said, “Farmers protested initially but fell in line by cleaning the wheat themselves. Those who could not wait engaged in distress sales to repay their loans.’’