The newly elected Madhya Pradesh government, under Chief Minister Kamal Nath, has put on hold the tweaked Flat Bhawantar Bhugtan Yojana and the payments under it as long as the matter is under review by senior officials, triggering a war of words between the opposition BJP and the ruling Congress.
Under the “Flat Bhwantar Bhugtan Yojana”, started in kharif 2018, farmers were entitled to receive a bonus of Rs 500 per quintal for soybean and maize.
The scheme was more on the lines of bonus payout and was not strictly one for making up the gap between the minimum support price and the one in the market.
The original Bhawantar Bhugtan Yojana was discontinued after the first year over allegations of manipulation by traders.
The process of registering farmers in the old scheme and calculating the difference in payment presented problems, and the state government, then under Shivraj Singh Chouhan, discontinued it in the second year and opted for the more manageable direct bonus payment, which it called the “Flat Bhawantar Yojana”.
The window for sale under the new scheme opened on October 20, 2018, and closed on January 19, 2019, for kharif crops.
Payout under the scheme was to begin thereafter.
Till the middle of November 2018, according to the state government’s own estimates, around 1.5 million of the state’s soybean- and maize-growers had registered for the scheme, selling an estimated 6.38 million tonnes of both the crop.
Chouhan, in a letter to Kamal Nath, has threatened to start a state-wide agitation for ensuring that payments promised by his (Chouhan’s) government for soybean and maize farmers were kept.
Chouhan said his government had not only promised to pay Rs 500 per quintal for soybean and maize in kharif 2018, but had also decided to make bonus payments for urad and moong.
In response, Madhya Pradesh Agriculture Minister Sachin Yadav alleged the previous government had promised to pay up to Rs 500 per quintal as bonus for soybean and maize, which meant they did not want to pay the correct price.
He said the new government had made a provision of Rs 1,500 crore in the interim Budget, to be presented next month, for the payments, which shows that it is serious about the scheme.
Yadav alleged BJP leaders were making false allegations against the Congress government and trying to mislead farmers.
The much-talked-about Bhawantar Bhugtan Yojana, meant to be India’s first large-scale experiment in price deficiency payment, had always been mired in controversy ever since it was launched in the aftermath of police firing on farmers in Mandsaur in 2017.