Speaking to ET, Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel said, “I have written to the Prime Minister expressing our inability to implement these new legislations. At the same time, we are examining the Bills to see how the government could make legislations on a state subject. Agriculture is not on the concurrent list. We would take legal steps to ensure there is no entry of private players in the agriculture sector.”
Chhattisgarh, which is known as the rice bowl of India due to high paddy cultivation, witnesses procurement by the Food Corporation of India with at least 40% of its production being procured for the central pool. Unlike Punjab and Haryana, where farmers have large land holdings, 86% of Chhattisgarh’s land holdings are of less than 5 acres.
“We have protected our farmers and implemented all reforms. Even when the FCI refused to procure our rice and asked us not to give any bonus over and above the MSP (minimum support price), we have ensured that through the Rajiv Gandhi Nyay Yojana we fulfil our promise of this bonus,” said Baghel.
Congress’ Rajasthan government is also employing a similar strategy. Even as the party unveiled its roadmap of protests in Jaipur on Friday, the government is exploring how to circumvent the provisions of the new Bills.
Cabinet minister and state Congress chief Govind Singh Dotasra told ET, “We will have a Cabinet on this issue soon. At present, we will take this issue to the people and even give a representation to the governor. The government is looking at legal options against the Bills.”
Both governments are examining if the Centre has used “interstate trade and commerce”, which is on the concurrent list, to frame the legislation.
“Our entire fight is on the issue of MSP. There is no clause in the Bills which says the private player would not be able to buy below the MSP set by the state. So, this leaves the farmers at the mercy of the private player,” Baghel said.
The chief minister gave the example of a tomato ketchup factory in his state where farmers have entered into an agreement and the prices they get for their produce vary. “This contract farming model has not helped them. How can the government expect the private players to protect the interest of farmers,” he asked.
Chhattisgarh has 11,000 panchayats, and one paddy procurement centre over five panchayats.