There is a sharp contrast in approach of NDA and UPA government to take care the interests of farmers.
Where as NDA government was out and out to safeguard the interests of the farmer community, the UPA government hardly bothered pay heed to the farmers plight. The decision to undertake the procurement of Bajra during NDA regime and delaying the procurement of mustard by UPA are the clear examples of this contrast.
In 2003, there was a bumper crop of Bajra, the staple food in western Rajasthan, in the state. The production of the course grain was expected around 30 Lakh tonnes, which was almost of double of the local consumption. It was almost certain that prices of the commodity were crashed in the open market and the farmers would have no option but would forced to resort to distress sale of their produce.
The then Ashok Gehlot led Congress government in the State, approached the NDA government at the Center and urged to direct its agencies to enter in the market to procure Bajra at Minimum Support Price(MSP).
At that time policy of the Agriculture Ministry was only to procure wheat and rice and there was no provision to procure course grain like Bajra. BJP led government at the Center felt that Gehlot was trying to get political mileage in the name of Bajra that if Center did not came forward, the prices of the commodity would fall and his party would blame the NDA government for it.
To protect the interests of the farmers was the top priority of NDA government'sagenda. It immediately announced the Rs 505 per quintal as MSP and decided to enter in the market. Gehlot government tried to take the credit for it, where as the reality was that state BJP, then headed by present Chief Minister, Vasundhara Raje, successfully persuaded its government at the Center to enter in the market to safeguard the interests of the farmers.
In contrast to this, approach of the UPA government not to start the procurement of mustard, when price of the commodity had fallen sharply, had exposed it thoroughly.
Rajasthan is a major mustard seed growing state in the country. It almost produce about 50 per cent of the total mustard in India.
For reasons, best known to the mandarins of Agriculture Ministry, a proposal mooted to reduce the MSP mustard to Rs 1600 per quintal from the present Rs 1715 per quintal. If this proposal had not been opposed by the state like Rajasthan, mustard growers in the country would have been at loss as they would not have got the remunerative prices of their produce.
Since Rajasthan was set to have a bumper crop of mustard, state government, way back in December- January had urged the Center to make an arrangement for procurement of the commodity to save the farmers interest. Chief Minister, Vasundhara Raje, and Agriculture Minister Prabhu Lal Saini sent more than half a dozen letters to the Center to urging it to direct the NAFED, to initiate the steps for procurement of mustard.
Ms Raje, had meetings with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar. She repeatedly pointed out that delay in starting the procurement would cost heavily to the mustard growers. She urged the Center to start the procurement of mustard by third week of February, when crop would hit the market. On its part, State government asked the Rajfed and Tilam Sangh, who function as nodal agencies for NAFED to procure mustard, to be ready to purchase the commodity.
These two agencies, by middle of February, had set up 263 procurement points in over two dozen Mandis. But there was no word from the Center or from the NAFED.
Currently, on an average, about 5,000 quintal mustard arrives daily in the Mandis. In the absence of procurement by the government agencies, the price of the commodity are far less of the MSP .
In the first week of this month, matter came up in the Assembly. Interestingly it was raised by Congress MLA Bharat Singh. His contention was that if procurement of the commodity was not started immediately, mustard growers would suffer heavy losses. The Agriculture Minister, Mr. Saini pointed out that delay was on part of the Center. Then he wanted to move a motion to urge the Center to start the procurement at once. Surprisingly, this resolution was opposed by Congress party members. In a bid to save the UPA government, its members said that though Center is ready to start the procurement, it was the state government which has not made sufficient arrangements to felicitate the purchase by the government agencies
According to estimates the production of mustard in the State would be around 40 lakh tonnes, surpassing all the previous records. The State government has impressed up the Center to procure at least half of it.
Sometime back, Center has told the State government that there was not sufficient storage facilities in the State, so NAFED was not in position to procure large quantities of mustard as suggested by the State government. But now State government has made arrangements to store all the procured mustard in the State.