Hailstorm and thundershowers hit parts of Bhopal and a few other districts of Madhya Pradesh on Sunday ahead of the ‘Kisan Maha Sammelan’ (grand farmers’ meet), and they have proven to be a blessing in disguise for Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
The untimely rain and hail have given Chouhan an opportunity to reconnect with the aggrieved farmers and passionately reassure them that the state government is firmly behind them. Moreover, it would also give him an opportunity to release funds to the farmers ahead of Assembly by-elections in the state, and pass this off as compensation to those who faced the brunt of the hailstorm.
Hailstorm, heavy rain and gusty winds hit Bhopal, Gwalior, Chhindwara, Betul, Satna, Narisghpur and a few other districts of Madhya Pradesh on Sunday, killing four persons and damaging Rabi crop.
Chouhan, addressing the rain-affected farmers, said, “Sankat ki ghadi mein neta ki pehachan hoti hai. Main ronewala CM nahi hoon. (The true character of a politician can be judged only in moments of crisis. I’m not a CM who cries.)”
“Don’t be bothered by the hailstorm. I’m with you,” he added. “I will ensure the ‘kisaan bhai‘ get relief through insurance claims,” Chouhan said on Monday while addressing the ‘Kisan Maha Sammelan at Jamboori Maidan, BHEL in Bhopal.
In a bid to pacify the anger among farmers and to redress their grievances ahead of upcoming Assembly by-elections at Kolaras and Mungaoli seats, the state government has hosted the grand farmers’ meet.
The government would be wary of protests like the ones seen in June last year when the state’s Mandsaur district was the epicentre of large-scale mob violence. Even today, despite assurances by the government, there remains palpable anger among the farmers of Kolaras and Mungaoli.
Hard-selling the state government’s ‘Bhavantar Yojna’, officially named the ‘Mukhya Mantri Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojna’ — a scheme that promises to pay the farmers the difference between the minimum support price (MSP) and the market price of a product — the chief minister conducted an on-the-spot referendum among the gathered farmers on Monday, and declared that the scheme will continue.
“I have the blessings of pradhan mantriji (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) and many teams from different states have come here to study the ‘Bhavantar Yojna’,” he said.
He then added a dollop of emotion to his next announcement and said the government is working on introducing a a new plan for the farmers’ benefit. “If a farmer keeps crops worth Rs one lakh in the warehouse, the cooperative bank would pay him Rs 25,000 as advance; once he sells his product, he can refund this to the bank. However, the interest on this advance would be paid by Shivraj,” he announced to huge applause.
Since its implementation, the Bhavantar scheme has received severe criticism from various quarters, including from farmers, agricultural experts and political opponents. “The promises made by the government to farmers are a bluff, but it will have a cascading effect in the forthcoming elections. Whether it’s the MSP or the payment of the difference in the amounts under the Bhavantar Yojna, the calculation is flawed,” Sompal Shastri, former Union minister of agriculture in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government and the first chairperson of the National Commission for Farmers told Firstpost.
Badal Saroj, central committee member of CPM and joint secretary of the All India Kisan Sabha, added, “Bhavantar Yojna doesn’t guarantee farmers a price for their produce that is at par with the MSP. Secondly, only those farmers who have registered themselves online are eligible for the scheme, and this works out to just 6.4 percent of the farmers in the state. The government should ensure implementation of the announcements made in the budget by the state finance minister, which had said MSP will be 1.5 times the cost of produce.”
“Through these announcements, Chouhan is trying to woo farmers ahead of the by-elections. But it won’t happen because farmers can’t be taken for granted anymore,” he added.
Meanwhile, if the farmers wish to guard against future calamities, former BJP MLA Ramesh Saxena has the solution. He claimed that if the farmers chant the ‘Hanuman Chalisa’ every day for an hour, it would provide immunity against the calamities.
And Balkrishna Patidar, minister of state for agriculture in Madhya Pradesh, backed him. “What’s wrong in it?” he asked. “Chanting Hanuman Chalisa helps the farmers and it would also prove beneficial for Shivraj Singh Chouhan in the upcoming bypolls”.
Only time will tell what proves to be more effective: Bhavantar Yojna or chanting Hanuman Chalisa.