Left under the open sky, the harvested crop started rotting and as the grains turned black from the moisture, Dewangan came to know that the state government would be buying the paddy from December 1 at the minimum support price (MSP). However, he is unsure of what the price would be owing to the ensuing battle between the state and Central government on the MSP.
There are countless people like Brijmohan in the state known as the Rice Bowl of India, where paddy farmers are getting increasingly worried. Over 19 lakh farmers had registered to sell their produces at the MSP in the current crop cycle, according to data from the state agriculture department.
Before the Assembly elections in 2018, the Congress had promised to buy paddy at the MSP of Rs 2,500 if elected to power. The Central government buys about half the rice that the state government buys from the farmers. However, because of an increase in the price, the Centre has reduced the quota for rice procurement this time.
Dewangan lamented the delay in the buying of the crops, which was supposed to start by November 15 but was extended to December 1 owing to disagreement between the state and Centre, and said that unless the conflict is resolved, he will be in a lot of trouble.
Till last year, the Centre was buying 24 lakh tons of rice from Chhattisgarh, which the state government has been demanding to increase to 32 lakh tons. However, instead of raising the purchase quota, the Centre has reduced it to 11 lakh tons.
After the Centre's refusal, the state is mulling over options to utilise the leftover paddy. Addressing the media on November 17, Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel revealed that plans to produce ethanol from the crop were discussed. He added that he has met the Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, and requested him to grant permission to produce ethanol for 10 years.
Agricultural expert Dr Sanket Thakur said that owing to the untimely and heavy rainfall in October, the farmers were bound to harvest the crop before time. Without storage facilities, the harvest is rotting in the fields for over a month while the farmer continues to amass debts just to keep feeding his family.
He added that owing to the high-interest rates and the pressure to repay loans, farmers are selling paddy for as low as Rs 1,200 per quintal.
Sunil Bhaskar, 56, a paddy farmer from Abhanpur in Raipur district, who came to sell paddy at the government mandi situated at Pandri in Raipur, highlighted that due to the immediate want of money, he is selling the crop even after taking a loss as the government will start purchasing paddy at MSP only in December and even after that, the money will take time to be credited into his account.
Subhau Verma, 46, a paddy farmer from Arang area in Raipur district, stated that he has harvested his paddy crop but owing to the lack of storage facilities, he has to sell it at a low price in the open market.
BJP versus Congress
In 2013, after coming to power in the state, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had written to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh demanding Rs 2,100 as the MSP, as promised by the BJP during the election campaign. At the time, the Centre had expressed its inability to offer the amount.
The 2018 election saw a similar promise by Congress flatly refused by the BJP at the Centre.
In a conversation with 101Reporters, Baghel said that the anti-farmer face of the BJP is seen across the country. "The BJP should clarify its opinion on the issue, whether it is in favour of purchasing paddy from the farmers of the state at a support price of Rs2,500 or not. Secondly, when the Central government had purchased paddy last year, why is it not being done now?", he asked.
He pointed out that he had written letters to the Centre, and the reply he received said the purchase of paddy for Rs 2,500 will upset the market. Baghel, instead, claims this will boost the state economy.
Several states in the country get the coal for their power plants from Chhattisgarh. In order to increase the pressure on the Centre, state Congress leaders are threatening to stop the supply of coal if their demands of purchasing paddy at MSP is not met. State Revenue Minister Jai Singh Agrawal, at a press conference on November 12, hit out at the Centre and threatened to stop the supply of coal.
Earlier, state Congress chief Mohan Markam on November 8 had indicated that the state government was trying to put pressure on the Centre by talking about stopping the coal supply.
One of the leaders of the farmers, Anand Mishra, a member of Chhattisgarh Krishak Biradari, told 101Reporters that the Narendra Modi-led government had already promised to fix the MSP based on the recommendation of the Swaminathan Committee. However, he pointed out that the Central government has not revised the prices in the state for six years.
"Now if the Centre is refusing to buy farmers' paddy from Chhattisgarh, then it is like committing fraud," he said.
Caught in the blame game, the state BJP leaders are attacking Congress for turning their back on their promise. Former Chief Minister Raman Singh, while addressing the media on November 16, said that the Congress had mentioned in the election manifesto that it would buy paddy for Rs 2,500 per quintal but was now ignoring the issue.
"Congress didn't fix the MSP of paddy after the consultation with the Centre. In such a situation, if the Central government has refused to buy paddy, then the state should purchase paddy from its resources," he added.