The Huddle

The Huddle 2020 | Farming should be ecologically and economically sustainable: Bhupesh Baghel

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel in conversation with The Hindu's Political Editor Nistula Hebbar at The Huddle 2020 in Bengaluru

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel in conversation with The Hindu's Political Editor Nistula Hebbar at The Huddle 2020 in Bengaluru   | Photo Credit: G.P. Sampath Kumar

We have improved the purchasing power of the rural community by reducing their economic burden and substantially raising their incomes, says the Chhattisgarh chief minister.

People would stick to farming as long as they get remunerative prices for their produce and governance initiatives in Chhattisgarh over the previous year have proved this beyond all doubts, Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel said on Saturday. Mr. Baghel speaking at The Huddle, on the topic ‘Bettering Rural India: Challenges in the time of climate change’. The session was moderated by Nistula Hebbar, Political Editor of The Hindu.

Listing the series of measures that significantly raised the income for farmers in the State, Mr. Baghel said due to the resultant buoyancy in rural sector, there was an overall uptick in Chhattisgarh’s economy. “We have improved the purchasing power of the rural community by reducing their economic burden and substantially raising their incomes. While the country as a whole is witnessing a slowdown in the automobile sector, Chhattisgarh has seen the sector growing by 36%. Similar is the case with real estate, which has appreciated by 150%. GST and demonetisation had sucked out the purchasing power of rural population but we put money back in the hands of farmers by higher prices and more savings for them,” Mr. Baghel said.

Pointing out that the State has 44% forest cover and the attempt is to develop a balance between industry and agriculture, the chief minister said Chhattisgarh has become the first State to return the land acquired for industry but remained unused for five years, back to the farmers.

“We returned the land in one case, as per the provisions of the land acquisition Act. We need cement, steel, and coal. To do this we need proper rehabilitation and compensation for affected people,” Mr. Baghel said.

‘Youth don’t prefer agriculture because of lacklusture remuneration’

Responding to a question on why young people did not want to become farmers, Mr. Baghel said it was clearly a function of the remuneration. “Youths don’t want to go to farming because it does not give them fair compensation for their effort. Wasting the productivity of the youth is harmful for the entire country. Their productivity needs to be used. When we ensured fair and remunerative prices, in Chhattisgarh, we saw the number of farmers going up by 2.5 lakh.”

Linking remunerative pricing for produce to environment-friendly outcomes, the chief minister said he has been lobbying with the Union government for converting a portion of the grain stocks to biofuels. Mr. Baghel also claimed the Centre was trying to stop him from paying bonuses to farmers. “This is not the first time that States and Centre are ruled by different parties, but this government has been disrespectful of our federal spirit. ₹23,000 crore due to us under the GST regime has not been given to us for several months now.”

Keeping farming and animal husbandry sustainable economically and environmentally was the focus of his government, Mr. Baghel said. Paraphrasing writer Harishankar Parsai's words, Mr. Baghel in a lighter vein said: "All over the world cows are meant to produce milk and in our country they stand also for votes."

He said government schemes were in place for recharging ground water and reviving rivulets across the State.

The CM said after he took over, earlier categories of beneficiaries for the Public Distribution System was done away with. “Our PDS is now universal.”

Turning the discussion to Congress politics, Mr Baghel said his was the only party that confronted the BJP and its current leadership on questions of ideology and governance. “People are generally very reluctant to speak up these days. Yes, The Hindu is one platform that is not afraid of speaking up. Police violence happened in Uttar Pradesh and Delhi in the recent times. Who has stood by the victims other than Priyanka Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi? Therefore, I say only Rahul Gandhi is capable of challenging this regime in a truthful manner,” he said obliquely pitching for his return as party chief.

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 4:19:31 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/the-huddle/farming-should-be-ecologically-and-economically-sustainable-bhupesh-baghel/article30888087.ece

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