Divya Dubey & Vibhash Jha
As a Cabinet Minister of Chhattisgarh since 2019, Amarjeet Bhagat continuously worked for the upliftment of the less fortunate people, farmers, and the tribal communities. During the unprecedented situation of Covid-19, he increased the quota of food grains given under the Department of Food and Civil Supplies without any shortage. Being a Minister of Culture he is likely to develop the most awaited huge ‘Film-City’ project in the state capital soon. On the occasion of Minister Bhagat’s Birthday on June 22, Divya Dubey did an exclusive interview. Though he will mark the occasion with the Plantation of Peepal sapling and convey the message of saving the environment.
Q- Chhatisgarh is the rice bowl of the country, and, fortunately, the Chief Minister of the state has an agricultural background. Even though the farmers have had their share of progress since Chhattisgarh got the statehood, during the last 20 years or so. How things have further changed in the tenure of Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel?
A- The commitment of our Chief Minister towards Farmers is quite apparent. We all know that the farmers in the state were in huge debt; prior to the formation of the state, the Chief Minister initiated a loan waiver for them. He also reduced their electricity bills, and the farmers were paid 2500/- per quintal for their paddy. After the Centre objected to this, he introduced Rajiv Gandhi Kisan Nyay Yojana for the agriculturists. For those in the cattle rearing business, the Chief Minister launched the Godhan Nyay Scheme. With the advent of the above schemes, people are getting attracted to Cattle rearing and farming again, which they had earlier discarded as unprofitable. This year, we had a bumper harvest of food-grains, ninety-nine lakh metric tons to be precise, and we had a contract with the Centre for the crops. The Centre was supposed to buy 60 lakh metric tons of rice, but a few days later, the Centre backed out of this agreement. Afterwards, we had 20 lakh metric tons of additional harvest; because the Centre backed out of its commitment. So we built an auction system and sold 10 lakh metric tons through this. The remaining amount of food grains got cleared through the public distribution system. The government has made different provisions for the farmers on a large scale and we intend to continue our work.
Q- No matter the Financial obstacles?
A- Of Course, the state government is supposed to act as an agent of the Central Government in grain procurement. All responsibility lies with the Centre, but when the Centre backs out, the state government has to face further pressure. However, the Chhattisgarh Government is committed to farmers’ welfare, and we will continue to buy their crops.
Q- Another serious concern is that the number of go-downs and the stock of food grains is ill-matched in the state. How will the state government cope up with this problem?
A- Well, as I told you earlier, we are committed to expanding our capacity. The Central Government procures and sell-through and sells through the FCI and FCI has got its go-downs for the procurement. However, the state government has got a go-down capacity of 20 lakh metric tons as of now. We are trying to improve it further, seeing the huge amount of procurement. If required we also take the service of private go-downs.
Q - Seeing the huge amount of paddy, kept on the open ground under the sky, going to waste during the rainy season, there were suggestions that the polythene bags can also be used instead of jute bags?
A-Any such change in the procurement process can only be done after the approval from the Centre. The state government is not entitled to take any decision in this regard.
Q- The state government is also trying to motivate the farmers for change in the crop cycle instead of paddy. How the farmers have responded to this initiative?
A- See the farmers have realized that paddy is going to fetch them a massive profit in Chhattisgarh, thanks to the Rajeev Gandhi Kisan Nyay Yojna and other welfare schemes. But due to bumper crop this year, the state government had to go for private bidding of extra stock of paddy, which was beyond the purchase limit of 92 lakh metric tons. This put an extra financial would be encouraged for horticulture, forest produces, fruits and other cash crops. The farmers would be given Rs 10000 per acre for three years in this scheme. Moreover, the process for permission has also been simplified.
Q- The Lemru elephant project has also been in controversy for the last few months. How things are going to settle down?
A- The central government has not yet approved our project, under which we are going to make a safe corridor for the elephant in the forest area. Instead, the Centre has recently given a mining lease to several private companies, which may cause harm to the wild animals and their safe habitation. Hopefully, we would complete this project, after having a consultation with the Centre.
Q- Since you are also looking after the Department of Culture, tell us about the progress in the proposal of Film City in Chhattisgarh?
A- It is in the initial state. The by-laws are being framed at the moment. Then the draft of the proposal would be sent to the state government. Once it is okayed, the budget would be discussed and then the rest of the formalities would be completed. But, hopefully, the film city will definitely come into existence, in the remaining tenure of this government.