HYDERABAD: The BJP at the Centre stole the thunder in the long-drawn battle between the TRS government over the issue of rice purchase with a sudden and surprising development on Friday, by announcing that the Central government would purchase 6.5 lakh tonnes of boiled rice from Telangana.
The announcement came on the eve of Union home minister Amit Shah’s visit here on Saturday.
The Centre's decision was announced by Union minister G. Kishan Reddy, who said the Centre had resolved to take up purchases to mitigate hardships faced by paddy farmers.
Refuting the charge that the BJP had made this decision because the TRS had led an agitation against the Centre, Kishan Reddy said, "We have not taken this because we at the Centre are afraid of the TRS state government, but to help Telangana farmers who were abandoned and left to fend for themselves by the K. Chandrashekar Rao-led TRS government.”
As readers would recall, the TRS, which has been in a fight with the BJP on the rice issue, has been demanding for some months now that the Centre buy all the rice produced in the state during the ongoing rabi (yasangi) crop season.
Chief Minister Chandrashekar Rao had led a futile dharna in New Delhi in support of this demand, before announcing that the state government would procure the paddy.
One of the sticking points in the political battle of wits, besides the huge farmers' vote bank, was that rice produced in Telangana during Rabi tends to break a lot more because of increased dryness of paddy due to the summer. Such paddy is more suitable for producing boiled rice.
The BJP, on the other hand, has been maintaining a stand that the TRS government had given a written undertaking to the Centre that it would not ask the Union government to buy boiled rice.
The BJP also accused the TRS government of first telling farmers not to sow paddy, and then looked the other way when they did so, only to create a political opportunity where it can blame the Narendra Modi-led Central government for not acting in the interest of Telangana farmers.
While the offer from the Centre to buy 6.5 lakh tonnes of boiled rice from Telangana is not expected to fully solve all problems faced by the state farmers, the decision, announced a day before Amit Shah is expected at a BJP public meeting, puts the TRS government in the dock.
The decision is politically significant because it provides the BJP an opportunity to claim a contrast between the indifference of the Chandrashekar Rao government versus the caring attitude of the Modi government when it came to the interest of Telangana's farmers.
Kishan Reddy said that the boiled rice will be used to manufacture fortified rice, and vitamins added, to be finally provided to poor people to improve their nutrition levels. “The Food Corporation of India is ready to play its part in ensuring rice fortification and distribution,” he said.
However, the fortification process could be delayed as not enough rice mills in Telangana are geared up for this operation. According to some rice millers, they would "require some time" before they can put in place required equipment.
Kishan Reddy said that the BJP had totally exposed the TRS’ lies on rice purchase by the Centre. “Telangana farmers have been told the truth by our party leaders, who now have a full understanding of what has been happening,” he said.
He added that despite claims by the Chief Minister that he would buy paddy, the state government did not take any advance preparatory steps to do so, and had failed in giving confidence or clarity to either farmers or rice millers, “who are in complete confusion.”
The Centre will bear the cost of conversion of boiled rice into fortified rice, he added.
Kishan Reddy said that because of the TRS government’s “stubborn refusal” to play its part in helping paddy farmers, the recent rains have led to destruction of large quantities of paddy brought by farmers to market yards.
“This is a failure of the KCR government. I urge Telangana not to take steps that will hurt farmers. Let us support farmers. The Central government will continue to stand by Telangana’s farmers,” he said.
“Instead of criticising the Centre or going to other states to distribute relief cheques, the TRS government should focus on welfare of Telangana farmers,” he added....