Chhattisgarh 2018

Farm loan waiver promise a challenge for Congress in Chhattisgarh

Within two weeks of forming the government in Chhattisgarh, the Congress will be facing the first challenge of fulfilling its huge promises to the farmers with very little money in the State’s exchequer.

Congress leaders – including its chief Rahul Gandhi – repeatedly said in rallies that within 10 days of oath taking, farm loans would be waived and pending bonus on farm produce of two years cleared. The party also promised to increase the minimum support price (MSP) of paddy from ₹2100 to ₹2500 and documented the commitments in its manifesto.

Sudeesh Tikam, one of the major leaders of the farmers in Chhattisgarh, who backed the Congress, said that his organisation will not only be “monitoring” the Congress but may also give a call for a “mass movement” if the government fails to fulfil the commitments.

“On December 17 we will host a farmers’ Swabhiman (dignity) Rally to congratulate the Congress. We will also remind them that within 10 days they will have to waive farm loans and eventually fulfil other promises. Otherwise on the 11th day we will launch an agitation,” said Mr Tikam, a member of the farmers’ coordinating body, Zila Kisan Sangh, which had organised giant farmers’ rallies in about 50 seats of the central plains. Over 75% of Chhattisgarh’s population is directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture and Mr. Tikam said the BJP government refused “to listen to them.”

“BJP promised bonus at the rate of Rs 300 per quintal of paddy. They did not pay it [in 2014 and 2015] and paying the bonus of 2018 kharif [rainy season crop] now, after a long struggle. They rather spent energy to quell farmers’ movements by torturing and arresting many.” Half a dozen cases were slapped on Mr Tikam and he still “is making rounds” in various district courts. Besides, BJP changed its 2013 decision to buy “each and every food grain” at the rate of Rs 2100 per quintal after coming to power nationally.

“In 2014, central government said that they will buy only as much of crop [at 2100] as it is required to run State’s public distribution system and not “each and every grain”, as promised. The effect was devastating…the government which was buying 20-30 quintal started buying about 10 quintal; farmers started committing suicide,” Mr Tikam argued.

Mr Tikam claims that “over 1000 members of farming families” committed suicide in Chattisgarh in last five years. “However, the record book has never connected suicides to farm distress,” he said. Realising the potential of the issue, top Congress leaders met Mr Tikam to finalise the manifesto, which is “nearly a copy of farmers’ manifesto usually released before the elections,” Mr Tikam said.

A senior government official however indicated that the State has “drained its exchequer and has no money.” “But Congress will have to arrange it as the stakes are high before 2019 poll,” the official said.

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Printable version | Aug 3, 2021 2:39:14 PM |

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