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As tension simmers, KCR gives Centre '24 hours' to buy paddy from Telangana

Telangana CM sits on day-long protest in Delhi, demanding procurement of 15 lakh tonnes of parboiled rice from the state

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Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) leaders, led by Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR), are sitting on a day-long dharna against the Centre on Monday in New Delhi, demanding procurement of 15 lakh tonnes of parboiled rice from the state.

The confrontation comes just months after the Centre repealed three agriculture laws after a year-long protest by farmers on Delhi borders.

‘I give you 24 hours’

“If Modi has the guts, let him arrest me… With folded hands, I tell the PM and [Union Food Minister] Piyush Goyal. Please buy our food grains. I give you 24 hours, after that, we will take our decision,” KCR said, NDTV reported. He asked the Prime Minister to frame a new agriculture policy, “and we will also contribute to that.”

This is TRS’ first protest rally in Delhi after coming to power in Telangana in 2014. The party MPs, MLAs, all cabinet ministers, and elected representatives of urban and rural local bodies are sitting on a dharna at the Telangana Bhawan in the National Capital.

Centre-State dispute

The protest follows mounting pressure from farmers in Telangana to buy their produce and the central government alleged refusal to buy parboiled rice from Telangana in the current crop season.

The confrontation between the Telangana government and the Centre started late last year over the issue of paddy procurement. The TRS government insists that 90 per cent of the paddy produced in the state should be procured by the Centre and that the Centre should complete the balance procurement of rice of the last Rabi season. The TRS says the Centre’s ‘apathy’ has put the lives of 61 lakh farmers at stake.

The Centre says it has enough stock of parboiled paddy to last for four years and will not be able to procure more than what has been promised by the Food Corporation of India (FCI). The Union Food Minister Piyush Goyal recently said that the Telangana government had given in writing that it will not supply parboiled rice but raw rice to the FCI.

Further, Goyal told Parliament, that Telangana’s original target for parboiled rice was 24.75 LMT, which was enhanced to 45 LMT on the request of the state government. However, despite that, he said the state failed to supply more than 28 LMT.

Farming issues

According to a Hindu report, production of raw rice is not possible in Telangana during the Rabi season as temperatures are high causing a high percentage of broken rice. The State government said it was not possible for it to manage parboiled rice stocks as storage space and exports are handled by the Centre. It wants incentives for exports of parboiled rice as the State is land-locked.

With FCI saying no to parboiled rice, the state government is reluctant to procure it from farmers as it would burden the state’s coffers. Instead, it has asked farmers to look at growing cash crops like groundnut, and cotton. However, farmers dependent on rice cultivation as their only source of livelihood are reluctant to adapt to a sudden change, a News18 report said.

KCR has been in the National Capital for the past 10 days for a medical check-up and to review the arrangements for the protest.

Telangana state BJP president Kumar on Saturday alleged that the TRS government’s “politicking on paddy procurement” smacks of a large-scale conspiracy to help middlemen make crores of rupees and divert the anger of farmers towards the Centre, NDTV reported.

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