No new centres will be opened till election is over, says ECI

An air of uncertainty looms over the process of paddy procurement in the Krishna-Godavari delta areas in the current rabi, thanks to the Election Commission of India (ECI)’s model code.

The office of the Chief Electoral Officer, Hyderabad in a memo No. 3204/elecs/BA2/2014-1 dated 3-4-2014 to the Andhra Pradesh State Cooperative Marketing Federation has directed that, “…the process of food grains be made from the existing centres at the existing rates (only), as had been announced before the model code of conduct came into existence.”

The CEO, in his directive, further quoted the letter circulated by the ECI (Lr. No. 437/AP-HP/LA/2014) dated 2-4-2014 and stated, “no new procurement centres shall be opened till the completion of the election process on 28-5-2014.”

As a result, the official machinery keeps itself away from the paddy procurement leaving the market open to the private agencies in the two delta regions spread over 23 lakh acres in the current season.

Even as the administration is supposed to have initiated the procurement process by April 4 by opening paddy procurement centres, there are no traces of State intervention whatsoever till date anywhere in the two delta regions, according to Yerneni Nagendranath, president of the Andhra Pradesh Rytanga Samakhya.

For instance in West Godavari district, Mr. Nagendranth said that there were 72 procurement centres and it was proposed to have another 30. But nothing came forth till date even as the current month is to close within a week reportedly in view of the official machinery’s preoccupation with elections, he added.

The euphoria among the farmers over the bumper yield proved to be short lived. The growers resorted to distress sale as the traders are reportedly taking the model code-induced situation to their advantage. The traders are said to be offering hardly Rs 1,200 for a quintal of fine variety as against minimum support price of Rs 1,345.

When contacted, V.D. Krupadas, Assistant Director, Agriculture Department, said the average yield has been in the range of 45-50 bags per acre over the previous record of 35 bags in the district. Peddireddy Chengal Reddy, secretary general, Consortium of Indian Farmers Association (CIFA), in a letter to V.S. Sampath, Chief Election Commissioner, took objection to bringing the paddy procurement, a ‘routine administrative process,’ under the purview of the model code and sought removal of curbs.