MANDI RATES are being monitored daily, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan gets an update every morning and evening, ministers, BJP MLAs and bureaucrats have been directed to visit mandis for ground reports, and district collectors have been told to depute a representative each.
Wary after the farmer unrest in Mandsaur in June, the Madhya Pradesh government is sweating over reports over the past few days of farmers resorting to violence over low prices for their produce.
After the Mandsaur protests, that resulted in five deaths allegedly in police firing and one in police custody, the state government had introduced a deficiency price payment system, named Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana (BBY), under which the authorities were meant to compensate farmers when prices of certain crops fell below the minimum support price (MSP).
However, this now appears to have boomeranged, with its launch on October 16 coinciding with low prices in mandis.
On Monday, some farmers in the Agar-Malwa mandi beat up traders and their employees, alleging traders were deliberately buying their produce at low prices. As police used teargas shells to disperse protesters, it was pelted with stones. Eventually, hundreds of farmers returned home without selling their produce.
The farmers are also angry over traders refusing to pay in cash citing possible trouble from Income Tax authorities. This has forced the government to clarify that traders should pay up to Rs 50,000 in cash to farmers rather than insisting on electronic payment. Marginal farmers can’t wait for cash to be deposited in their accounts, and need money to buy seeds, fertilisers and for daily needs.
Till October 15, more than 16 lakh farmers had registered themselves under BBY scheme for eight notified crops — soybean, maize, groundnut, sesame (til), urad, moong, tur and ramtil (nigerseed).
The first purchases under the scheme were made on October 16. The trouble arose after prices of soybean and urad crashed. News soon spread that traders had formed cartels to ensure these didn’t cross a certain level. Traders hope to buy at low prices to sell at higher rates later, and also mislead farmers by telling them they will get the entire difference from the government between the selling price and MSP, which is not the case.
Soybean, for example, is fetching much less than the MSP of Rs 3,050 per quintal, even though the production estimates have been revised downwards. Traders claim the quality of soybean is bad, resulting in less demand. Urad’s prices, on the other hand, have been affected due to bumper production.
Agriculture Minister Gaurishankar Bisen has accused traders of misusing the scheme.
Chouhan has now directed officials to go in for a second round of auction if farmers don’t get good prices at the first auction.
Shivkant Dixit of the RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, the largest farmers’ outfit in MP, claimed there was nothing wrong with the scheme. “Traders and mandi officials collude to keep the prices low.” Shivkumar Sharma of Bharatiya Kisan Mazdoor Sangh countered, calling the scheme flawed and unnecessary. According to him, BJP “has no courage to break the trader cartel” as most traders are affiliated with the party.
Congress has announced protests against the scheme. State party chief Arun Yadav said the CM should take the blame for pushing farmers to the brink by hurrying it through.