The standing joke in poll-bound Chhattisgarh is that the Congress authorities’s paddy procurement charges are so engaging that even former chief minister and veteran Bharatiya Janata Social gathering chief Raman Singh has been promoting his produce to the state the final 5 years.
In Singh’s native village of Rampur within the state’s Kabirdham district – earlier known as Thathapur – paddy farmer Tularam Dhruv, nonetheless, was not amused once I recounted the gag. “What’s fallacious with that?” he demanded. “Is he not a farmer from the state too?”
However Dhruv softened up quickly sufficient. “Kisan ka hit toh hua hai Baghel sarkar mein – farmers have definitely benefited underneath Baghel,” he stated, referring to Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel. “There isn’t any level mendacity about that.”
A ‘bonus’ makes farmers comfortable
Ever because it got here to energy in 2018, the Baghel authorities has plied paddy farmers with a bonus of Rs 600 per quintal over and above the Centre-mandated minimal help value for the crop, making this the very best value paid for paddy by any authorities in India. Paid within the type of an enter subsidy, the bonus involves Rs 9,000 per acre, because the state is dedicated to purchasing 15 quintals of paddy per acre. Even when the crop fails, the farmer is assured of state help.
As Chhattisgarh goes to polls subsequent month, interviews with paddy farmers make it clear that the scheme, which is called the Rajiv Gandhi Kisan Nyay Yojana, is a giant hit amongst them.
As Khemraj Chandrakar, a farmer in Durg district’s Patan space, stated, “I’ve 18 acres of land, which implies I get greater than Rs 1.5 lakh a 12 months for completely free. What extra can I ask for from the federal government?”
Within the second week of October, I travelled throughout eight districts in central Chhattisgarh the place paddy is by far essentially the most widely-grown crop. I interviewed dozens of farmers – most of them, like Chandrakar, gave a convincing thumbs-up to the incumbent Baghel authorities, saying it had delivered on its pre-poll promise of accelerating the minimal help value for the paddy crop.
“Kisan ke liye sunhere din aa gaye” – it’s a golden interval for farmers, stated Hem Singh Nishad, a farmer in Basna village, a part of the Saja constituency. “What they promised, they did, in contrast to the Raman Singh authorities.”
A scheme for everybody
Forward of the 2013 Meeting polls within the state, the BJP had promised to present farmers a bonus of Rs 300 on each quintal of paddy the state bought. However after coming to energy, it managed to disburse the quantity for under the primary two years. The funds had been discontinued after the Narendra Modi-led BJP authorities on the Centre requested states to cease giving bonuses on paddy and wheat procurement.
The lapse is believed to have harm the social gathering within the 2018 election – and it continues to animate farmers’ reminiscence within the state.
“Bhupesh se faayda hua hai, Raman bol kar bhi muh kar gaya,” stated Shobharam Bharadwaj, a farmer in Baloda Bazar’s Juda village – Bhupesh has delivered, in contrast to Raman who did not maintain his phrase.
Strikingly, even BJP staff admit that the Congress authorities’s paddy bonus scheme has been comprehensively applied and doesn’t discriminate based mostly on political loyalty.
“I could also be from the BJP, however I’ve additionally obtained the bonus and on time,” stated Gulab Verma, the saffron social gathering’s sales space president in Durg’s Nandwai village.
Verma added, for good measure, “Each farmer who’s registered has obtained cash.”
Over 24 lakh farmers are eligible for this particular bonus-cum-subsidy, which is slated to rise to Rs 12,000 per acre later this month, as the federal government begins shopping for 20 quintals of paddy from the following procurement cycle.
Because the veteran journalist from the state, Sunil Kumar, put it, “With their households, that provides as much as practically 1 crore folks in a state with round 2 crore voters.”
An apparent alternative?
Whereas all beneficiaries could not essentially again the Congress within the upcoming election – Verma, for example, stated a BJP authorities would imply general improvement of the state and never simply farmers’ welfare – a big chunk of them do appear to be rooting for an additional time period for the social gathering.
Take, for example, Khairdin Sahu of Umariya village in Bemetara distinct. Sahu’s husband owns three acres of land. Residing off it, she stated, was a battle earlier than the Congress authorities got here to energy. She stated, “Yeh sarkar hello sahi hai, bahut madad kiya hai – this authorities has helped us lots.”
Likewise, in Janjgir Champa district’s Mehandi village, Manoj Patel stated that his alternative within the upcoming election was apparent. “We now have really obtained one thing from the federal government this time,” stated Patel.
Flashes of disaffection
But, amidst the multitude of content material farmers within the plains of central Chhattisgarh, there are naysayers too – largely marginal peasants and agricultural labourers who don’t personal any land of their very own.
Take Damanlal Markam, a daily-wage farm labourer in Balod district’s Sorar village. Makram was dismissive about his life getting any higher within the final 5 years. “Good charges for paddy means the landowners have turn out to be even richer,” stated Markam. “However they don’t cross on the advantages to us.”
In Bematara’s Dunda village, Sarita Verma’s grievances had been related. “The federal government could also be giving some huge cash to those that personal land, however we nonetheless get Rs 110 for seven hours of our labour,” she stated.
Leaders of the BJP insist voters like Markam and Verma will propel them to energy this time. “The bonus is for wealthy farmers,” stated Saurabh Singh, the MLA who represents the social gathering in Janjgir Champa’s Akaltara constituency. “The landless farmers should not getting something and it’s that divide that we’ll carry to the forefront this election.”
Whereas acknowledging that the paddy bonus is the Congress’s “trump card” going into the election, Singh stated the BJP had a extra complete agricultural scheme within the works if voted to energy, one which didn’t simply contain “giving cash”. “The federal government has executed nothing else. There was no effort to develop a second crop. Irrigation potential has not been developed,” he stated. “We’ll do all of that.”
However, on the bottom, most farmers appear to be somewhat pleased with the Congress authorities’s choices.
As I used to be ready to interview Singh within the courtyard of his workplace which abuts his palatial home, I met a farmer who had come to see him – a courtesy go to forward of the election. Singh had welcomed him, together with a number of others from the identical village, with saffron scarfs. “Be sure we win with an excellent bigger margin,” he instructed them as they posed for images.
Out of Singh’s earshot, although, the farmer made no bones about who he needed in energy within the state. “He’s our vidhyak [legislator] and a superb man,” he instructed me. “However the fact is not any farmer desires the BJP again in Chhattisgarh.”
One other farmer in Balod district’s Nipani village stated, “Jo kisan ko khush rakhega woh sarkar banayega aur kisan Baghel sarkar me bahut khush hai.” Whoever makes the farmer comfortable will come to energy in Chhattisgarh and the Baghel authorities has stored the farmer very comfortable.
All images by Arunabh Saikia.