I remember a story from the Upanishads, which I used to love as a child. A small boy asked his father, “What is Brahma?” In response, the father asked, “have you had your meals? If not, don’t eat anything till tomorrow.” That day passed and the following day as well, and the boy was still instructed to stay without food. On the third day, the small boy went running to his father and said, “Father, I have understood — annabrahmetijanami (food is Brahma)”.
In this country, food has been accorded the status of Brahma and the farmer annadata (provider). This is why I feel that in the Chhattisgarh region, farmers’ issues can be the subject of political games but it is quite difficult to study them in depth and arrive at the reality. I have been asked often about what crops other than grains could be grown here and I have always replied that the rich soil and climate is favorable for a variety of crops.
When our government was formed, we had faced many challenges, which the Chhatisgrah government has tackled one by one and achieved some success as well. Today, the state is producing several fruits of high quality. Besides, the farmers have begun turning towards organic farming as well. Surprising to note that in the financial years 2016-17, over 13,000 hectares of land was brought under organic farming, representing a 19 per cent growth over the previous year.
We have made a resolution to transform the districts of Narayanpur, Sukma, Dantewada and Gariaband into 100 per cent organic farming districts. You are probably aware that these come under the Naxal-affected belt. But the entire picture is changing. In Bastar, a rare form of turmeric with anti-cancer properties is being grown. Turmeric contains a substance named “Curcumin”; the Curcumin content of turmeric in our state is 0.73 per cent, the highest in the country. Very soon, the name of Bastar will be familiar to majority of people. Also, the scale of coffee beans being grown here is comparable to Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha. For this crop a height of at least 500 ft above sea level is necessary, and Durbha where the coffee is grown in this area is at a height of 623 feet. The coffee plant yields fruit for 45 years. Very soon, a processing plant will also come up here. Further, cultivation of tea leaves is being encouraged in this area and tea gardens can be seen in Sarudih, juts 3 km from Jashpur. State chief minister Raman Singh has designated Jashpur as a Centre of Development.
With the help of some government schemes and the tireless labour of the farmers, Chhattisgarh is producing guavas in sizeable quantities. In addition, peach, pomegranate, dragon fruit, appleber (Indian plum) are also grown in the state.Research on apple cultivation is underway, while in recent times, germ plasm of rice has exhibited medicinal properties against cancer. Similarly, the Kadaknath chicken found here is believed to have 37 per cent more protein than poultry found elsewhere. Further research in rice germ plasm and Kadaknath chicken is being conducted at Bhabha Institute.
All along, the state government has every possible scheme for the needs and benefit of the farmers. This includes crop insurance and waiver of interest on agricultural loans. During the 2017 kharif crop season, almost 13 lakh farmers had availed of crop insurance. For this, the farmers paid a total premium of Rs 128.08 crore, while the rest was paid by the government. Lakhs of farmers benefited through the scheme. An estimated 5,36,601 farmers received insurance payouts amounting to Rs 1238.494 crore by direct transfer into their bank accounts. Further, the claims of 42,203 farmers amounting to Rs 92 crore is under processing and would be disbursed very soon.
During 2017, farmers in the state were provided with 11,96,136 quintals of certified, high quality seeds. For about three years after the state was formed, the production of seeds was inadequate. Hence a Seeds Corporation was formed and farmers were taken on board in order to transform the seed production into a viable business. This gave rise to a number of positive outcomes.
On account of these initiatives, the 2018 kharif season saw the production of 7,97,000 quintals of seeds against an estimated demand of 8,23,000 quintals, while an additional 6,97,000 quintals have been stored with various cooperative societies.
In the entire state, the cooperative societies made payment of production bonus worth Rs 1706,50,71,747 to an approximate 12,06,214 farmers who sold their crops to the cooperatives.In the same year, 2017, 96 tehsils all over the state were declared as drought-affected. In these tehsils, farmers were paid compensation of Rs 568.67 crore, while disbursement of another Rs 5 crore is being processed.
Small, marginalised and economically weak farmers were provided with modern agricultural equipment, apart from financial grants and incentives to the service centres for these implements.Thus the grants given to service centres with an outlay of Rs 25 lakh would be Rs 15 lakh, while the amount sanctioned for centres with a budget of Rs 15 lakh would be Rs 7.5 lakh. Along with this, agricultural workers would be supplied with parts worth Rs 42,000 for the farm equipment. To ensure that farmers in the state are able to get a fair price for their produce, the 14 agricultural mandis in the state have been connected to a national market, through which transactions worth Rs 300 crore are taking place. There is a misconception among people that because of general development in Chhatisgarh state, the proportion of irrigated land has decreased. Some people with vested interests are propagating this myth, though it is not based on fact.Compared to the land under irrigation in 2003-04, the area has increased by 56 per cent. To make life easier for the farmers at every step, the state government has been working through the cooperative societies to reduce the interest on short-term agricultural loans in a phased manner till it has now come down to zero. This is the first scheme in the country for interest-free short-term agricultural loans and it has received huge support from the farmers. Until June last year, approximately 3,37,000 farmers were given loans amounting to Rs 1146.20 crore, while this year, 4,37,000 farmers received loans worth Rs 1511.47 crore.
The government has been encouraging the diversity of crops, while dissuading the cultivation of paddy during the summer when water is scarce, and substituting paddy with crops that require less water. To promote these concepts, the government has organized exhibitions and awareness programmes all over the state. In addition, demonstrations to popularize the cultivation of scented varieties of rice are being planned from the current year.
To ensure proper irrigation of agricultural land, the government has started a “Shakambhari” scheme for farmers who lands are adjoining the rivers and canals. Under this scheme, the small and marginal farmers are given a 75 per cent grant for purchase of irrigation pumps. This has already benefited about 12 lakh farmers in the state. Besides, there is the Sourya Sujala Yojana through which electrification of tube wells is being carried out. In addition, free electricity up to 7,500 units is being provided for irrigation pumps of upto 5 HP (horsepower). For additional consumption, charges are levied as per a flat rate.
The credit for steadily growing agricultural production belongs to the hard labour of the farmers as well as support coming from the government. In comparison to the output in 2003-04, the year 2016-17 saw a 47 per cent rise in paddy production, while the growth in pulses was 43 per cent and that of oilseeds was 158 per cent. The overall growth of food grains was an estimated 58 per cent.
For all these accomplishments, I would like to congratulate our brothers who are engaged in agriculture and express the hope that in future they would work in partnership with the government to scale higher and higher peaks of achievement.