COVID-19: Facing problem of plenty, Telangana speed dials Bihar for help

COVID-19: Facing problem of plenty, Telangana speed dials Bihar for help

In an otherwise gloomy environment due to coronavirus-induced lockdown, Telangana has something to cheer: A record harvest of paddy.

In an otherwise gloomy environment due to coronavirus-induced lockdown, Telangana has something to cheer: A record harvest of paddy. Authorities are expecting a yield of 1.05 crore tonnes, the highest for any season since the formation of Telangana six years ago.

However, a problem of plenty is staring at the state.

It is virtually impossible to carry out the mammoth task of milling the paddy, now being procured from farmers, without the help of migrant workers from Bihar who traditionally account for over 90 percent of the workforce in the state’s rice mills.

In view of the lockdown, the labourers are not in a position to leave their home towns in Bihar.

The Telangana government is so desperate to woo back the migrant labourers that it has offered to arrange special buses to bring them to the state and take care of all their needs.

Related news | COVID-19: Telangana extends lockdown till May 7 without relaxations

Bihar on speed dial

Telangana chief secretary Somesh Kumar contacted Bihar deputy chief minister Sushil Modi, requesting him to facilitate the return of labourers to work in rice mills.

“We have started paddy procurement from farmers. The next stage is to transport the stocks to rice mills. It is migrant workers from Bihar who are largely engaged in milling operations,” an official of the state agriculture department.

Usually, the workers from Bihar visit their home town twice a year. Once for Holi festival and again during Chhath Puja. This time, because of the lockdown, they are unable to travel back to Telangana to work in over 2,200 rice mills located across the state.

Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao made an appeal to his Bihar counterpart Nitish Kumar to send all migrant labourers back to the state, describing them as “partners in Telangana’s progress” and promising to take care of all their needs in times of the crisis.

“If necessary, I will talk to the Centre to arrange a few special trains to bring back the workers from Bihar,” KCR, as the chief minister is popularly known, said.

Related news | 74L bank accounts will be credited with Rs 1,500 as promised by CM: T’gana minister

Special arrangements

Since the market yards in towns are shut, the government has opened 7,000 centres in villages to procure paddy directly from farmers. The procurement will continue till May 20 by following social distancing guidelines and other precautions.

Every farmer would be issued a coupon, mentioning the date on which he will have to bring his produce to the procurement centres. After the procurement, the money will be transferred online into the farmer’s bank account. The paddy cultivation was taken up on 40 lakh acres, which is a record.

The government has set aside ₹30,000 crore to procure about 1.05 crore tonne of paddy and another 14.5 lakh tonne of maize from farmers.

Related news | Casual approach to pandemic blunts COVID-19 fight in Telugu states

The area under paddy cultivation was 18.35 lakh acres in Rabi season of 2018-19 and it has more than doubled to 39.12 lakh acres now. The doubling of the paddy acreage in the state is largely attributed to successful completion of the ambitious Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Scheme (KLIS).

The state expects paddy cultivation in 55 to 60 lakh acres during Kharif season, which begins with monsoon. It was 40.7 lakh acres last year and a mere 22.7 lakh acres in 2014-15. This is expected to go up to at least 70 lakh acres next year.

“We are confident of reaching an annual paddy production of 2.25 crore tonnes from next year. This will help Telangana emerge as rice bowl of India,” the Agriculture Minister S Niranjan Reddy said.

Lockdown impact

Though the government has exempted agricultural activities from the lockdown, the unavailability of labourers due to the coronavirus scare and shortage of harvesting machines has adversely affected operations.

The agriculture market yards in towns were shut to avoid large gatherings. As the situation had the potential to cause large-scale distress among farmers, the government has promised to buy the entire stock of paddy and corn, together cultivated over 50 lakh acres during the current season.

Related news | Withdrawal hits tipplers in Telangana as lockdown keeps booze out

The market price for maize is as low as ₹800 per quintal but the state government will purchase it at MSP of ₹1,760 per quintal. Similarly, paddy will be procured at MSP of around ₹1,835 to ₹1,855 per quintal.

Sops for migrants

The state government has announced that it would provide 12 kg of rice and ₹500 in cash to each of the 3.5 lakh migrant labourers from other states, who are now stranded here as a result of the lockdown.

The Chief Minister has assured migrant labourers that his government would provide food, drinking water, and healthcare facilities.

“You have come to our state for work and are contributing to the state’s progress. We treat you as our family members. You are the partners in the development of this state. We will take care of you,” KCR said.

Hyderabad is home to about 10 lakh workers who migrated from various states like Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, and Odisha.

Read More
Next Story