Politics over paddy procurement add to Telangana farmers' dilemma

Politics over paddy procurement add to Telangana farmers' dilemma
Source: IANS

Hyderabad, Nov 19 (IANS) Even as farmers in Telangana remained worried over sale of the paddy already grown during kharif season and keeping their fingers crossed on whether to go for paddy cultivation or not during the coming rabi season, the politics over the issue have only added to their confusion.

All three major political players in the state have taken to the streets over the issue of paddy procurement, blaming each other for the problems faced by farmers.

With Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao himself sitting on 'dharna' and declaring a war with the Centre, the issue has taken a dramatic turn.

The farmers, however, are upset that instead of finding a solution to their problem the parties were doing politics over the issue. After waiting for several days to sell the paddy at designated procurement centres, a section of farmers were resorting to desperate sale in neighbouring states at rates lower than the Minimum Support Price (MSP).

The farmers gearing up for cultivation in the next season were also anxious. They are clueless whether to for paddy cultivation or not. With political parties talking in different tunes, the cultivators are finding themselves in a big dilemma.

For the last couple of weeks, politics in the state is being played on paddy procurement.

Upbeat over its recent victory in Huzurabad Assembly by-election, the BJP was looking to corner Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) over what it calls the state government's failure to procure paddy. The ruling party, however, hit back strongly laying the blame entirely at the doorsteps of the saffron party's government at the Centre.

While the two parties were busy blaming each other, the Congress also took to the streets accusing both TRS and BJP of staging a drama to fool people, especially farmers.

Thursday's development was unprecedented in last seven years. KCR, as the chief minister is popularly known, upped the ante against the BJP by sitting on three-hour 'dharna' with his entire cabinet, TRS MPs and state legislators at Indira Park in Hyderabad.

He also used the occasion to slam the Centre for what he called anti-farmer policies and for neglecting Telangana by going back on the promises made at the time of formation of state, Warning that there was no party like TRS when it came to fighting spirit, KCR said that the time had come for another movement against the Centre.

The TRS chief, who spearheaded the Telangana movement for 13 years leading several rallies, road blockades, sit-ins and fasts, participated in a protest for the first time after formation of Telangana state.

Though TRS had called for a shutdown to protest merger of some mandals of Telangana with Andhra Pradesh soon after formation of Telangana state in 2014 and also took to the streets as part of the nation-wide protest to show solidarity with agitating farmers in December last year, KCR had not personally taken part in these protests.

The TRS chief made some unprecedented moves like addressing two press conferences in as many days to slam BJP state leadership. He challenged BJP state president Bandi Sanjay to get an assurance from the Centre that it will procure paddy from Telangana.

KCR also dashed off a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asking him to clarify the Centre's stand over the issue. He blamed the wrong policies of Food Corporation of India (FCI) for the current situation and wanted paddy procurement from Telangana on a par with Punjab.

Political observers say KCR's personal involvement in the issue is understandable in view of the high stakes involved for his government. The expansion of area under cultivation, thanks to various irrigation projects completed during last seven years, led to a boom in paddy cultivation in the state. Only a few weeks ago, KCR was proudly projecting Telangana as the rice bowl of the country.

However, the FCI's reported decision not to procure parboiled rice in coming Rabi season sent the alarm bells ringing for the state government. Agriculture minister Niranjan Reddy and officials started advising farmers to grow alternate crops but the farmers remained reluctant for a variety of reasons.

The slow progress of paddy procurement even during the ongoing season created some unrest among farmers and the BJP plunged in to cash in on the situation. BJP state chief Bandi Sanjay's visit to few procurement centres led to clashes between the cadres of BJP and TRS.

KCR was already angry with Sanjay for calling up on farmers to go ahead with the paddy cultivation in the next season too and ignore state government's advise to grow alternate crops. The Chief Minister hit back with a 'dharna' and even warned the Centre that he is ready to take the fight to Delhi.

"Politics has unfortunately taken centrestage on the issue of paddy in Telangana. After encouraging farmers to produce paddy in the past, KCR has surely taken a U-turn on the issue, and the union government too must be blamed on the issue,a political analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy told IANS.

"While KCR government will have adverse financial implications due to paddy production in the state and demand for more procurement emerges, BJP state unit is simply doing politics on the issue instead. The Right-wing party clearly understands the fact that more paddy cannot be procured, but wants to use KCR's past statements for petty political gains," he said.

On the day when KCR sat on 'dharna', the Congress took out a rally to the office of agriculture commissioner demanding the state government to procure paddy. Its state chief Revanth Reddy dared KCR to sit on 'dharna' at Jantar Mantar in Delhi. The Congress leader alleged that TRS and BJP were resorting to shadow boxing to mislead the people.

"Congress has an opportunity to take the fight to the streets across the length and breadth of Telangana, but they seem to be missing out on gaining prime time mileage on it. Both TRS and BJP have captured the narrative while Congress is forced to play second fiddle," said Raghavendra Reddy.