As someone who has been able to secure the entire state’s votes through the revolutionary Rythu Bandhu scheme, Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekahara Rao has won people’s hearts and kept his vote bank intact, despite some losses.
Of late, paddy procurement from farmers has been an area of concern for the government of Telangana. With Rythu Bandhu and the state’s procurement of Paddy stocks, farmers across the state have been relieved. It not just ensured that their stocks were sold but also brought them the minimum support price for paddy which could help them with their input costs.
Recently, the Chief Minister had also asked farmers to protest against the Modi government’s decision on Paddy. But why? Telangana’s demand is that the Union government procure paddy produced in the Rabi season from the state under the National Food Security Act.
The TRS has accused the Centre, especially Union food and public distribution minister Piyush Goyal, of double-speak. The party says it has made repeated appeals to Goyal to buy the paddy but their asks have fallen on deaf ears and the government is adopting a discriminatory procurement policy (especially by not doing so from Telangana).
The TRS is raising two important questions through this: 1) Why is the Union government buying paddy from Punjab but not from Telangana? The party argues: if one nation, one ration card, then why not one nation, one procurement policy? (This is despite the Aam Aadmi Party government in Punjab beginning to procure rabi crop from April 2 and depositing the money in farmers’ accounts.)
On Goyal’s statement that the Food Corporation of India (FCI) could not export rice because of the provisions of the Food Safety and Standards Act, TRS working president K.T. Rama Rao (KTR) claimed he had evidence to show that exports did take place. He says the Centre had exported 10 million tonnes of parboiled rice in the past two years.
KTR, who is the son of Telangana chief minister K. Chandrashekar Rao (KCR), asked the Union government not to impose unnecessary rules for parboiled and raw rice keeping in view the interests of farmers. “If need be, the Food Safety and Standards Act can be amended to allow exports and help farmers,” he says.
KTR also blames the imbroglio on certain statements allegedly made by BJP leaders, notably Telangana unit chief and Lok Sabha MP Bandi Sanjay Kumar and Union tourism minister G. Kishan Reddy. They, he says, had apparently told farmers that it was their responsibility to make the Union government procure the entire paddy produced in the rabi season, irrespective of it being processed as parboiled or raw rice. KTR claims they had asked farmers not to pay attention to the state government’s plea against growing paddy.
On the other hand, the BJP has a different response to this situation. The party explained that Telangana failed to complete its target contribution of rice to the national pool during the last procurement season ending March 31, 2022. Instead, it has sought an extension of two months from the Union government to fulfil its committed contribution of rice to the national pool. According to Telangana’s BJP unit, the TRS is trying to stoke farmers’ emotions for the benefit of the rice millers’ lobby.
With just one year for elections, political analysts say that KCR is also determined to project himself as the saviour of farmers as part of his strategy to rally regional parties across states. Sources also inform The Better Andhra that this could be KCR’s strategy in creating a place for himself in the national politics, which he has been trying to set foot into, for sometime now!