April 13, 2022
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether Telangana’s demand for the Centre to procure 100% paddy from the state is justified. We also look at how Nagaland is finally ready to implement the 33% reservation for women in their civic bodies, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Paddy Procurement: Telangana versus the Centre
In the never-ending saga of states against the BJP-led union government, the latest episode has the Centre clashing with the Telangana government, led by K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR) and his Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS). This time, the narrative has some familiar beats – farm policies and procurement of crops.
It involves KCR accusing the Centre of discriminatory policies in paddy procurement from the state. There have been protests which are likely to continue as KCR demands answers from the government. For their part, the Centre has stated that its stance hasn’t changed or has been inconsistent. It said it can’t take any surpluses.
On Monday, KCR brought his fight against the BJP government to Delhi over its paddy procurement policy. He sat on a symbolic dharna along with his cabinet. He criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government on this issue. Speaking on stage during the protest, he asked the Centre to procure paddy from Telangana similar to how it does from other states.
Over the past year, the issue of minimum support price (MSP) has been at the forefront. For over a year, farmers across several states staged protests against agricultural reforms introduced by the government. Their agitation paid off as the Centre repealed them. Among those who joined KCR on stage during his protest was Rakesh Tikait, leader of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU). It was one of the groups central to the farm protests.
Over the past few years, Telangana has seen a rise in paddy production. In September, it was reported that production would hit 1.6 crore tonnes during the Kharif season. Agricultural officials said the area under cultivation was 61 lakh acres. While this figure hasn’t increased in recent years, production has increased due to a favourable climate and increasing yield per acre.
Most of the paddy cultivated in the state is processed into common or raw rice varieties. In the Rabi season between November and April, the paddy is processed as parboiled which involves partially boiling, soaking and drying. It is easier to digest and has low sugar content. This is done because, during the summer months, high temperatures lead to the breakage of raw rice. Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Bihar are among the states that consume parboiled rice.
Telangana wants the Centre to adopt a 100% procurement policy from the state’s farmers. In November, a delegation of ministers from the state met with Modi to put forward their demand. The Prime Minister reiterated the government’s stance – the Food Corporation of India (FCI) won’t buy parboiled rice from any state.
The FCI is the nodal agency of the Union government. Along with other state agencies, it handles the procurement of wheat and paddy. Among the FCI’s objectives are to have an effective price support system to safeguard farmers’ interests and maintain a satisfactory level of buffer stock of food grains for food security. The FCI procures food grains from farmers at a specified price and makes them affordable to weaker sections.
As the tussle continued, Telangana farmers protested outside state procurement centres. The market has also been flooded with surplus stock. When KCR first began his stir with a maha dharna in Hyderabad, he demanded a ‘One Nation One Procurement’ policy. He called upon the BJP leaders in the state to pressurise the Centre. It seemed to have worked as Telangana BJP chief Bandi Sanjay assured farmers. However, he did a U-turn and said the Centre will buy only raw rice.
VIEW: Uniform policy for farmers’ benefit
For farmers, paddy cultivation has been a boon. They’ve benefited from the regular and abundant water supply, the Rythu Bandhu welfare scheme, and an uninterrupted power supply. According to the TRS, it was the BJP who encouraged farmers to sow paddy. They also allege that the party assured them the Centre would procure their produce.
The TRS cited the Centre’s procurement from other states through the FCI last year. In 2021, it procured 202.81 lakh tonnes of grains from Punjab and 141.38 lakh tonnes from Telangana. During the Kharif season, it procured 186.86 lakh tonnes from Punjab and 70.26 lakh tonnes from Telangana. This discrepancy affects lakhs of farmers, highlighted by state Agriculture Minister S Niranjan Reddy.
According to farmers and opposition parties, the FCI has been dubious in its procurement policy. In January, a proposal by the Centre on procurement of food grains on MSP drew criticism. The FCI proposal changed the quality norms that apply to food grains. The reason given was for food grains to meet international standards. However, farmers said it was a way to undercut them on MSP. Also, its open procurement policy has put it in a bind as the annual requirement is only about 65 million tonnes.
COUNTERVIEW: The policy is clear and consistent
Union Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey clarified the government’s stance. The FCI cannot procure parboiled rice due to sufficient stocks. Another point to note is that the demand through the Public Distribution System (PDS) is limited. The FCI buys raw rice from states based on the PDS demand. The amount of parboiled rice procured is minimal. Pandey said the states were notified in December 2020 of the FCI’s surplus of parboiled stocks. As of April 1, 2022, it had a stock of about 40 lakh tonnes of parboiled rice.
For the 2020-21 Kharif and Rabi seasons, FCI’s total parboiled rice procurement was 88.37 lakh tonnes. Telangana alone contributed 48.85 lakh tonnes. The initial amount procured was 24.5 lakh tonnes but was increased upon request by the state government. Pandey said the state gave in writing it will supply rice as per the FCI requirement and won’t supply parboiled rice.
The current predicament the state finds itself in is due to the lack of planning by the state government. While telling farmers to diversify their crops, they weren’t made aware of the FCI’s procurement policy. Now, KCR finds himself in a tough spot. Paddy cultivation is relatively easy and not capital intensive. Also, KCR is in an awkward position now. Last year, he came out in support of the Centre’s farm laws after backing the Bharat bandh. It will be difficult for him to convince farmers that the Centre and not him and the TRS are the villains in this story.
What’s your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) Telangana’s demand for the Centre to procure 100% paddy from the state is justified.
b) Telangana’s demand for the Centre to procure 100% paddy from the state is not justified.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
Indian Business Doesn’t Speak Up Against Injustice. Here’s Proof
For the Left:
Recent IMF Paper Suggests Extreme Poverty in India Has Virtually Vanished
🏴 STATE OF THE STATES
33% reservation for women (Nagaland) – On Tuesday, the state government told the Supreme court that it was ready to implement the 33% reservation for women in their civic bodies. The state counsel told the bench that a resolution was passed regarding the same, and they agreed to implement the 74th amendment. The state election commission had already started the process of making the necessary changes.
Why it matters: Earlier, the apex court had reprimanded the state over its delay in implementing the 33% reservation, saying that this allows for gender equality and representation. The state election commission even replied to that by blaming the state government for its lack of response when requests for the required amendments were made. Finally, the state seems to be on board with women in power.
High pensions for MLAs (Haryana) – The state’s former MLAs are costing the state exchequer a pretty penny to the tune of ₹29.51 crores per year. At the top of the list, former Congress Minister Ajay Yadav currently receives a pension of ₹2.38 lakh per month. A total of 275 former legislators and the kin of 128 former MLAs are drawing pensions from the state. RTI activist PP Kapoor even urged the state to follow Punjab’s single pension pattern.
Why it matters: Punjab’s new AAP government has scrapped their original pension plan and adopted the “one MLA, one pension” rule. This basically means that MLAs of the state will receive pensions for only a single term. Because of this, the state is expected to save ₹80 crores in the next 5 years. Right now, an ex-MLA will get ₹75,000 every month as their pension. The push for this model has been gaining momentum in Haryana as well.
Appalling conditions in jails (Odisha) – On Monday, the High Court expressed its displeasure over the appalling living conditions in the prisons of the state. It directed the DG Prisons to make sure that all jails and sub-jails are clean and hygienic, and the food quality is immediately improved. A report submitted by Justice SK Panigrahi said that the food was “not fit for human consumption” and the condition of toilets was disgraceful.
Why it matters: In January, the state government even constituted the Odisha Prisons Development Board to better the infrastructure of jails in the state. Its first major job is to create a 3-5 year action plan for the overall development of prisons. Besides this, Odisha jails are also known to be heavily congested. The total prison capacity is supposed to be 19,855. Currently, the prison population is 21,765.
Row over Azan (Goa) – On Tuesday, a right-wing group from Goa demanded that an administrative order be implemented to curb the use of loudspeakers in mosques. The Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) met with North Goa district collector Mamu Hage and submitted a memorandum regarding Azan, or the Islamic prayer call. According to them, “everyone is forced to hear the loud prayers… This is not the freedom of religion.”
Why it matters: In 2021, a High Court bench had directed the administration to look into a petition filed by Varun Priolkar about the use of loudspeakers by mosques. The additional district magistrate then passed an order telling them to not use any public address systems without prior permission from authorities. The police were also told to be vigilant about this and ensure the mosques complied with the order.
Cabinet reshuffle (Andhra Pradesh) – On 10 April, CM Jagan Mohan Reddy announced his new Cabinet where 11 members were retained while the other 14 were new additions. The reshuffling happened to account for caste and regional equations, while still trying to retain a few senior ministers. The news led several ministers to resign after losing their posts to others.
Why it matters: In 2019, the CM said that after half the term, the Cabinet would go through changes and senior ministers will be entrusted with the task of reviving the party. Now, the Cabinet has 10 members from Backward Classes, 1 Muslim member, 5 members from Scheduled Castes and 1 from Scheduled Tribes. The Cabinet also has 4 women members – one more than the last one.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
572% – Between 2018 to 2021, cyber crimes in India saw an increase of 572%. From 2,08,456 cases in 2018, the number has come up to 14,02,809 in 2021. In the first 2 months of 2022, 2,12,485 cybercrime cases have already been recorded.