NEW DELHI :
Rising concern over the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the rural economy is prompting state governments to find ways to procure more farm produce, especially wheat.
With growing threat to farmers’ livelihood, both National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and opposition-ruled states have approached the union government to announce a special package for the agricultural economy, and transfer money to daily-wage labourers through the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).
Punjab and Bihar said they will buy most of the farm produce, while Uttar Pradesh is also taking steps in that direction. “Punjab government has already announced that it will buy wheat and most of the other produce of farmers to stabilize the rural economy. We will need the foodgrain for future use if this situation continues," said a senior Shiromani Akali Dal leader, adding that both the central and state governments should try to revive the rural economy and not get involved in a political slugfest.
Similarly, the Bihar government under chief minister Nitish Kumar, who will face assembly elections in October-November, has said it will start buying agricultural produce from 30 April.
“We have two major problems or challenges at hand in Bihar. Farmers are facing uncertainty because of the lockdown and coronavirus. So, the state government has decided to buy most of the produce of farmers. The second big problem is that migrants or daily wage labourers have returned home without money and jobs. It is because of the presence of so many daily wage labourers in villages that now the cost of labour has reduced, and they will not be able to get enough money even after working for long hours," said a leader of Janata Dal (United) leader in Patna.
Similar steps have also been taken by Uttar Pradesh. It has also decided to keep fertilizer and seed shops open during nationwide lockdown. The state government has already announced that procurement will be done on time at the minimum support price (MSP), and the purchase of mustard, gram and lentils (masoor), which had started on 2 April, will continue. UP will procure at least 2.64 lakh metric tonnes of mustard, 2.01 lakh metric tonnes of gram and 1.21 lakh metric tonnes of masoor, and this process will last for 90 days.
In Congress-led Chhattisgarh, chief minister Bhupesh Baghel is keeping its focus on reducing disruptions in supply chain for easy transportation of agricultural goods.
“There were seasonal crop damages even before the lockdown and our revenue department is ensuring that compensation is paid to farmers to brace for the times ahead. Crops will take another 10 days to be ready for sale at mandis and we are making sure that they are all open with enough social distancing restrictions," said a senior bureaucrat of the state’s agriculture department. On Monday, the Meghalaya government decided to resume MGNREGS work with immediate effect and permitted farmers to resume agricultural work. Deputy chief minister Prestone Tynsong informed reporters in Shillong that daily wagers will get ₹700 per week under the Chief Minister’s Relief Against Wage Loss scheme, and the money will be transferred to the beneficiary’s account directly.