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Thursday, April 26, 2001

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Minimum price denied, ryots tell CM

By Our Staff Reporter

ELURU, APRIL 25. The Chief Minister, Mr. N. Chandrababu Naidu, was confronted with the plight of farmers on account of a glut in paddy market during his visit to the delta-rich West Godavari district on Wednesday.

Mr. Naidu undertook the visit in the district on a `fact-finding mission' in the light of widespread complaints on the poor pace of paddy procurement by the FCI, State Government agencies and millers, which entangled the farming community in the worst-ever crisis.

He addressed farmers, interacted with representatives of various farmers' bodies, millers and officials from the FCI and the State Government as part of his `mission' at Undi, Bhimavaram and Palakole.

Even as he was saying that he intended to interact with the farmers to cross-check the information provided by his administration on state of paddy procurement and implementation of minimum support price at Undi, farmers interrupted him and said they were denied the MSP and exploited by millers, taking advantage of the situation.

With regard to the implementation of MSP, the farmers explained that they were being given receipts by officials as an evidence for ensuring the MSP while millers were paying a meagre amount of Rs.350-370 per bag as against the MSP of Rs.405.

Mr. Naidu was mobbed by a group of farmers' representatives at the FCI godown at Bhimavaram. Virtually, locked up in a heated wordy duel, Mr. Naidu asked the farmers' leaders owing allegiance to the Congress and the CPI(M): ``Which Chief Minister was ever bothered in the past to come to the people's doorsteps to mitigate their sufferings?''

In retaliation, a CPI(M) activist from the crowd quipped back: ``We are not interested in your coming, but a concrete solution to the problem.'' An irate Chief Minister, however, ticked him off and cautioned against making the occasion a political platform.

The senior Congress leader, Mr. Minte Padmanabham, said that the Civil Supplies Department and the FCI had failed in paddy procurement. The Rytu Karyacharana Samithi leader, Mr. Suryanarayana Raju, citing an instance, said the Civil Supplies Department had not purchased even a single grain at his native village. The CPI(M) leader, Mr. J. N. V. Gopal, said farmers were getting sandwiched between the FCI and the department and the millers.

At one stage, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) local functionaries, aided by the police on duty, sought to ensure order. Even as a TDP functionary, in yellow-shirt, resorted to keep the crowd away from Mr. Naidu physically, the Chief Minister avoided a showdown by asking him to keep himself away from the activity.

The Narasapuram Revenue Divisional Officer (RDO), Mr. Kanna Babu, admitted non-implementation of the MSP in some areas. He reasoned that the paddy grown in the division was far below standards in terms of moisture rate, shrinkage and shriveling which forced the Civil Supplies Department to reject such samples.

CMs' meet sought

Meanwhile, Mr. Naidu mooted a meeting of Chief Ministers to thrash out the deadly implications of the World Trade Organisation on the domestic farm sector. Seeking to link up the present crisis in paddy market to the WTO agreements, the Chief Minister revealed that he had requested the Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, to convene a meeting of Chief Ministers of all States to discuss the issue threadbare.

Mr. Naidu appealed to the Prime Minister to step up measures for export of rice to lift seven crore metric tonnes of rice piling up in godowns across the country.

He said the impact of WTO agreements varied from one state to the other. Similar was the case of farm product. For instance, the paddy production in West Godavari district suffered heavily while groundnut in Anantapur district sustained a severe setback as an off-shoot of the WTO agreements.

On recognition of the 1001 variety of paddy as Grade-1 by the FCI, which proved to be a major concern for farmers, the Chief Minister proposed to supply a gadget recommended by scientists of the Agricultural Research Station at Maruteru to the district administration. The machine would make easy the job of measuring the size, width and length of the grain - basic parameters for gradation.

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