Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao Monday started a “maha dharna” in New Delhi to demand the Center procure paddy from the state. The Telangana government also wants an assurance in writing from the Center on the amount of paddy it will procure every season, saying it will help in planning crop patterns in the state.

The slugfest between the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and Bharatiya Janata Party in the state has now spilled to New Delhi where posters of the Telangana CM and state BJP president Bandi Sanjay Kumar have come up. Several leaders and supporters of the TRS have joined Rao in his protest at Telangana Bhavan in the national capital. Rakesh Singh Tikait of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) also joined the protest. Tikait said that he is joining the Telangana government’s fight against the Center’s biased paddy procurement policy.

At the center of the paddy procurement tussle is the BJP’s relentless efforts to expand in Telangana, and the challenge it is posing to the ruling TRS. To counter the growth of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the TRS is highlighting the BJP’s “indifference ” towards Telangana farmers.

“We want to highlight the vindictive and selective paddy procurement policy of the Center, ” said TRS MLC K Kavitha, the daughter of the chief minister. She said that in spite of the indifference shown by the Center, the TRS government will protect the interests of farmers in Telangana. She said that the schemes and policies of the central government are a threat to the national food security system and that the TRS will fight for the interest of the farmers.

Aided by the availability of abundant water for irrigation, the Rythu Bandhu welfare scheme, and an uninterrupted power supply, Telangana’s farmers turned to paddy resulting in a bumper crop and a glut. Anticipating this, the CM had earlier cautioned farmers not to sow paddy and instead go for alternative crops. TRS leaders say that it was BJP leaders who encouraged Telangana farmers to sow paddy and assured them that the Center would procure every grain. “Now they are not saying anything, not a word on their promise to purchase all the paddy, ” said state Agriculture Minister S Niranjan Reddy. The Center has promised to procure 65 lakh tonnes of which it has only procured about 45 lakh tonnes, but has refused to procure any more than the target of 65 lakh tonnes, saying that there are enough stocks with it. The state government wants the entire stock of approximately 75 lakh tonnes to be procured by the Center.

TRS leaders point out that last year the Center through the Food Corporation of India (FCI) procured 202.81 lakh tonne of grains from Punjab while 141.38 lakh tonne of paddy was procured from Telangana. In the last Kharif season, the Center procured 186.86 lakh tonnes from Punjab but only 70.26 lakh tonnes from Telangana. “It is this discrimination and apathy towards our farmers which we want to highlight. It affects lakhs of farmers, ”says agriculture minister Reddy.

Last November, KCR wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi complaining that certain policies of the FCI were confusing and creating difficulties for states to plan cropping patterns. Telangana wants FCI to fix procurement targets for the entire year at one go, which will help states to plan an appropriate cropping pattern and explain the same to the farmers. However, there was no response from the Center. TRS leaders kept raising the issue but it had simmered down ahead of the Assembly polls in the five states as the state party decided to keep an eye on the results. As the BJP swept in four of the five states, the Telangana government decided to take the issue to the Center and hold the dharna in New Delhi.

TRS lawmakers have also been demanding in Parliament that the Center should announce a uniform procurement policy. TRS Member of Parliament G Ranjith Reddy said that in spite of meeting Piyush Goyal several times, there is no assurance from the Center that all of Telangana paddy would be picked up. TRS leaders said that the Center has informed them that there is enough stock of rice in the country and it won’t purchase any more of it.

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