The government found itself in a spot in the Assembly on Wednesday over its “failure” to purchase the entire quantity of paddy damaged by heavy rains during the last kharif, with the TDP, CPI (M) and Lok Satta members cornering Civil Supplies Minister D. Sridhar Babu for “inept handling” of the situation.

The Minister was grilled by Opposition members who expressed their ire at the purchase of only 30,000 tonnes of damaged paddy so far by the government agencies while a huge quantity of 18 lakh tonnes was lying with farmers in the rain-hit districts.

Lengthy debate

A full-length debate was allowed by Deputy Speaker N. Manohar on the issue following a question tabled by A. Brahmanaiah (TDP) during question time. Describing the Minister's reply as “inadequate and unsatisfactory”, the TDP members surrounded the podium, shouting slogans “we want full procurement”, forcing the Chair to adjourn the House for the day. J. Ranga Reddy (CPI-M) staged a walkout.

Intervening earlier, Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy lambasted Leader of the Opposition N. Chandrababu Naidu for projecting himself as a champion of farmers after doing “pretty little” for them during his tenure. He said that in response to his plea, the Centre was likely to enhance the input subsidy for damaged paddy to Rs 25,000 per hectare.

Relaxation of norms

He said norms had been relaxed to enable farmers export boiled rice and fine varieties of BPT and “Buddalu” (in Nellore district). He pleaded with the Centre to allow export of boiled and raw rice, each 15 lakh tonnes, from the State.

Legislation would be enacted in the current session to enable tenants also get subsidies, etc. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme would be dovetailed to the needs of farmers.

Mr Sridhar Babu said “we have done whatever the affected farmers required.”

He referred to the interest waiver (of Rs 350 crore) on crop loans, increase in input subsidy to Rs 6,000 per hectare, payment of MSP even for paddy damaged up to 10 per cent and of Central permission secured to create 5.6 lakh tonnes of godown space.