Even as Chhattisgarh farmers struggle to sell their paddy yield, untimely rains across the state have delivered a body blow to cultivators in the state.
The huge stocks of paddy that the farmers had maintained for selling were reportedly damaged following heavy rains in the state the past three days. The delay on the part of administration to procure paddy had forced them to either keep the yield in the field or leave it unprotected in the house.
Normally, small farmers do not have sufficient storage capacity and prefer to sell their produce at the earliest. The procurement process in Chhattisgarh was delayed by a month as the state government and Centre locked horns over paddy purchase.
The state government urged the Centre to allow it to pay Rs 2,500 per quintal to the farmers. The Centre denied permission and said it would refuse to buy the rice from the state for the central pool if teh Chhattisgarh administration paid any bonus over and above the minimum support price (MSP).
After a long tussle, the Chhattisgarh government finally decided to procure paddy at MSP and pay the difference to the farmers under a different head. However there was a delay of about a month in the procurement process, even as the farmers had began harvesting. Procurement finally started on December 1.
The farmers have been complaining about serious flaws in the process, which slowed the flow of paddy to the societies, forcing them to keep the yield in the field. During the last one month, the state picked up only 3.6 million tonnes (MT) of paddy as against the February-end target of 8.5 MT.
The paddy procured was also damaged in the rains. After being bought from the farmers, it was kept in the societies. Reports from different parts of the state said many societies had been waterlogged while no arrangement for covering the yield was made.
Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel said the administration had been asked to take steps to save the paddy.
Sensing the seriousness of the damage, the ruling Congress party swung into action. The party had asked its Members of Parliament, Legislators and office bearers to visit the procurement centres and keep a vigil to ensure farmers get relief.
Unofficially, paddy worth Rs 8,000 crore had been damaged in the preliminary estimate and the figure was likely to go up.