Farmers’ shutdown halts life in Chhattisgarh

Raipur, Nov 25 ( Normal life was paralysed across Chhattisgarh Wednesday as thousands of farmers blocked roads and highways during a day-long shutdown called to force the government to hike the minimum support price for paddy.

Reports from all 18 districts said the shutdown hit life as buses were off the roads and schools, cinema halls and petrol pumps closed down.

Markets in state capital Raipur and major towns like Bilapur, Jagdalpur, Korba and Raigarh were shuttered.

Several farmer leaders were arrested in Raipur and Bilaspur. The Congress party and several smaller political and other outfits extended support to the strike.

The Sanjukat Kisan Morcha, an umbrella organisation of farmers’ bodies that called the strike, said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government had failed to implement its pre-election promise of last year to provide a bonus of Rs.270 a quintal to farmers while buying paddy and give free electricity for irrigation pumps.

The government has been buying paddy at 1,577 centres across the state from about one million farmers since Oct 12 at Rs.950 a quintal for common grade paddy and Rs.980 for grade-A quality paddy.

But the farmers are demanding at least Rs. 270 per quintal as bonus as had been promised to them.

Realizing that the issue is becoming volatile, the government has put the ball in the central government’s court.

On Tuesday, Chief Minister Raman Singh wrote to the central government demanding a steep hike in the minimum support price (MSP) for paddy.

“The MSP for paddy for the current fiscal should be increased to Rs.1,400 per quintal from the current Rs.950 for common grade paddy while that for grade-A variety should be raised to Rs.1,430 per quintal from Rs.980,” he said in his letter to Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar.