At a time when there is a countrywide exodus of migrant workers following the lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak, Telangana has come up with a unique request to Bihar to send back the latter’s workers employed in rice mills of the southern state.
With Telangana gearing up to procure a record 1.05 crore tonnes of paddy from farmers at designated procurement centres, the authorities believe that the task cannot be completed without labourers from Bihar.
As the harvesting of paddy crop begins, the milling of rice will also follow for which the state requires large number of labourers to work in the mills.
Traditionally, migrant workers from Bihar account for nearly 95 per cent of the workforce in over 2,200 rice mills spread across the state.
A majority of them had gone back to their home towns much before the lockdown began. “They went to their native villages for Holi festival but are now stranded there due to lockdown,” an official said.
Now, the chief minister wants Bihar to send all those 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.
Request to Centre
The State chief secretary Somesh Kumar has already spoken to his Bihar counterpart to request him to send back the workers.
“If necessary, I will talk to the Centre to arrange a few special trains to bring back the workers from Bihar,” Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao said.
Telangana is likely to record a huge production of 1.05 crore tonnes of paddy which would be procured from farmers from April 1.
Since the market yards in towns are shut, the farmers have been advised to stay put in their villages where the procurement will be carried out by following the social distancing guidelines and other precautions.
The chief minister has assured the farmers that his government would buy the entire paddy and maize grown in the state and appealed to farmers to have patience and wait in their villages for the procurement to commence. He also assured that the entire stock would be purchased at Minimum Support Price (MSP).
The paddy procurement will continue till May 20. Every farmer would be issued a coupon, mentioning the date on which he will have to bring his produce to procurement centre. 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.
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.
The normal area under paddy cultivation in Telangana is 17 lakh acres but this year it has more than doubled. The maize area also increased to 5.84 lakh acres against the normal 3.72 lakh acres. However, the State is facing shortage of gunny bags required for lifting the paddy stock. As against the requirement of 70 lakh gunny bags to store food grains, the state government had only 35 lakh bags and efforts were being made to obtain them from various states.
Sops for migrants
Amidst exodus of migrant workers, 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 alone is home to about 10 lakh workers migrated from various states like Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Odisha.