Bhopal/Indore: Amid fears of a severe fiscal crisis and an impending drought, chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Monday launched Bhawantar Bhugtan Yojana — his government’s most ambitious welfare scheme for farmers that aims to cushion them from price crashes. It could cost the government Rs 3,000 crore, say sources.
“It may be tough for the state exchequer, but the government will go ahead with it,” Chouhan said, making it clear that there are hard times ahead. “Roads will not be built for the next one year,” the CM said.
With assembly polls barely a year away, the state government is on an overdrive to woo farmers. Three days ago, the CM slashed VAT on diesel by 5% and also scrapped the Rs 1.50 cess, saying it will “benefit farmers”. With the farmer agitation of June still smouldering in the fields, and a patchy monsoon worsening fears of a drought, the three-term BJP government doesn’t want to take any chances.
Under Bhawantar Joyana — which the MP government says is one of a kind in the country — if the minimum support price for a crop is less than market price, the government will pay the difference to farmers. “This is a historic day for farmers. It is the first project in the country to guarantee that farmers get minimum support price (MSP) for their produce. Bhawantar Yojana will ensure that the price difference goes directly to the farmers’ accounts. Since the government has decided to pay huge amount to cover the losses of farmers, it may be tough for the state exchequer but we will go ahead with it to double farmers’ income in five years,” Chouhan said, while inaugurating the scheme in Khurai tehsil of Sagar district on Monday.
Giving an example, he said that if a farmer is forced to sell his pulses for Rs 3,500 per quintal when MSP is Rs 5,025 per quintal, the state government will pay the remaining Rs 1,525 per quintal to him. “I was asked to tread cautiously on spending a lot of funds on the scheme but I refused to budge,” he said. “I was told to be cautious and not gamble on farmers’ issue but I decided to go with it so that farmers’ income could be doubled in five years. This is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream scheme and Madhya Pradesh wants it to be the pilot for a national-level project,” said Chouhan. At Hanuwantiya, where he stayed the night after inaugurating Jalmahotsava, he said: “The state government will have to bear a huge burden to ensure that farmers don’t face losses and farming remains profitable.
The CM echoed the RSS view that loan waiver is not the answer to farmers’ plight, and that a justified price for their hard-earned produce is a better way of empowering them. Wary of the scams and irregularities that dogged the procurement of onion and pulses after the farmer agitation, Chouhan reiterated that the government will ensure transparency in Bhawantar Yojana and that the model price will be decided on the average market price of the crop over the last two months in MP, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra. The maximum production of the crop per hectare in the region will also play a role in deciding the model price.
The CM cautioned bureaucrats and officials against a repeat of the onion-and-pulses rot. “I warn officials to be alert in executing welfare schemes. Those found involved in irregularities or corruption will be punished. No corrupt official will be spared,” Chouhan said
The chief minister took the opportunity to hit out at Congress that is trying to capitalize on farmers’ grievances. “Congress failed to help farmers during crisis. Farmers were given loan on highest rates during Congress regime. Now, they blame BJP for their failure,” he said.
After the launch, similar programmes were held in 257 agri-markets across the state to initiate Bhawantar scheme, which initially covers soyabean, groundnut, sesame, maize, moong and urad from October 16 to December 15. For tur, MSP will be declared from February-April 2018, said officials.