Multiplying problems for MP CM

L.S. Herdenia

There is no respite for Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister. Even as he was trying to sort out the problem created by the unexpected flood of onions into the procurement centres set up by the government, a series of suicides by farmers in the state has become a matter of serious concern.
More than 30 farmers have committed suicide in June and a majority of these came after June 10, the day on which farmers' agitation was suspended. The suicides have washed away the tall claims of the state government that farming has become profitable in MP. 
Looking at the seriousness of the issue, the State Human Rights Commission has asked the state government to explain the causes behind the suicidal deaths. The MPHRC has issued four notices over different incidents of farmers' death and suicides in MP in the past 22 days. But it has not received the reply to a single notice so far. 
Taking cognizance of the police firing, resulting in death of five farmers in Mandsaur district, MPHRC issued notices to the state government and sought a report. The commission constituted a two-member bench for hearing on the issue and sought replies by June 23 from chief secretary, DGP, district collector and SP Mandsaur.
But the responses are yet to be received. Left with no option, the MPHRC has now issued reminders to the officials concerned for their reports so that it can decide its future course of action.
Other farmers' death-related incidents in which MPHRC has sought reports, but is waiting for replies, include suicide by three farmers in Hoshangabad, Narsinghpur and Sagar district allegedly due to loan sharks, not getting compensation on time and related issues. MPHRC has also asked collector and SP Hoshangabad for a detailed report on the farmers' suicide and the steps district administration took to check such incidents. The commission also inquired whether compensation was paid before or after the farmers' death and how many such cases are still pending.
The most shocking aspect of these suicides is that not a single minister or leader of the ruling party took the trouble of meeting the families of those who committed suicide. Even the officers did not do so. On the contrary, statements were issued claiming that in most of the cases, farm debt was not the cause of the suicides.
Apart from the farmers’ suicides, the state government has been encountering serious difficulty in handling the problem arising out of purchasing and storing onion. The government hurriedly launched the drive to buy onions at a minimum support prize of Rs 8 per kg, but is now finding itself trapped with no takers for the onions procured. Special trains carrying tonnes of onions across Madhya Pradesh are getting no takers, forcing officials to request the government to stop sending the special trains.
So far 12,000 metric tonnes of onion has already reached Betul, 200 kms away from Bhopal, where the officials are finding it difficult to handle the produce. District supply officer PS Mujalde told media that he had written to the government not to send any more onion trains.
ML Choudhary, manager of the district unit of the civil supplies corporation, has also written to the government that onion is not required in Betul. Another train carrying onions is waiting at Itarsi for onward journey to Betul. At Harpalpur railway station of Chhattarpur, tonnes of onions are decaying on the platform. The terrible stench emanating is discomforting passengers. The special train carrying the onion had reached the station three days ago. More than 2,000 metric tonnes of onion off loaded from the train is decaying.
Government sources conceded that there was no planning in the transportation of onion purchased from the farmers. Chairman of the MP civil supplies corporation Hitesh Bajpai admitted "a big challenge" in handling the onion transportation. Reports of huge stocks of onions rotting at various places are reaching Bhopal. Observers feel the decision to purchase onions should have been taken earlier. The procurement began when monsoon rains were round the corner. There is not enough space to store purchased onion.
Meanwhile several organisations claiming to be well-wishers of farmers have announced their programmes for agitation; some of them have decided to undertake "yatras". There is every possibility that the competition among farmers' unions may spoil the cause of peasants.
Amid these problems, the chief minister found himself trapped in a political storm when the election of his cabinet colleague Dr. Narottam Mishra was declared null and void. He was found guilty of sponsoring paid news during the elections held in 2008. Dr. Mishra, who held the department of public relations, is regarded as Chauhan's confidante. He was also the spokesman of cabinet since 2013. Incidentally Mishra is the second public relations minister facing allegations of misconduct. The first was Laxmikant Sharma, who too was very close to Chauhan and enjoyed enormous power, but was found involved in the Vyapam scandal and had to spend more than a year in prison.
Mishra was accused of bribing journalists during the 2008 elections. A complaint was made against him by the losing candidate, Rajendra Bharti of Congress. The moment the Election Commission declared him guilty of ‘paid news’ opposition parties demanded his resignation both from the ministry as well as from the Vidhan Sabha. Meanwhile, Mishra has appealed to the state High Court challenging the Election Commission's decision. According to the commission's decision, he not only ceases to be a legislator but he has been debarred from contesting election for three years, which means that he cannot contest the next election to the Vidhan Sabha due for next year.  (IPA)

Tuesday, 4 July, 2017