A cabinet meeting of the Assam State Authorities on Monday announced to provide free rice from 1st April to 58 lakh families registered under the National Food Security Act. Rice growers asserted that they are being forced to sell their produce at prices far less than the cost of production because of the welfare initiative.
Rice farming bridges the generation gap
63-year-old Saharia Dimbeswar Saharia of Sipajhar and 40-year-old Bonojit Hussain of Nalbari are rice growers belonging to different generations but sharing similar concerns. Due to lack of fair price for their produce the farmers are sorting to new options like confining themselves to cultivating only one crop or not cultivating at all. While few people still consider the cultivation of tea and mustard as viable options. Farmers appealed to the government to benefit the poor but also ensure satisfactory prices for the state’s rice production. They hope the new government that would assume charge after the elections in May would mend the strategies in their favor.
Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana
Around 1.25 lakh tonnes of free rice are attributed for distribution in a rice state between April- November to 58 lakh families to tide over the COVID-19 crisis. A family eligible under the regular Antyodaya Anna Yojana continues to receive 35kg free rice a month. Then those with annual income less than Rs 1 lakh receive 5kg per person per month under the Priority Households scheme. A ration shop owner said at times a family received as much as 80kg of rice a month, leading to a glut.
TPT Policy Advocacy & Recommendations
- The government should instead set up panels with associated departments to assist farmers under various flagship programs and ensure quality and quantitative service to the COVID struck families.
- Since the state’s agriculture is rice centric occupying major cropped area, the non-functionality of the Agriculture Product Market Committee Act 1972, failure of FCI to expand its facilities and to procure rice from Assam, near absence of MSP, inept government handling of RMCs, and market yards are deterring rice farmers from getting their share of profit. Instead, pension to the older citizens must be aided and earmark a fund for assistance to the families who are under crisis due to the pandemic. Alternatively, med-claim type of insurance facilities should be postulated.