Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, along with his Cabinet colleagues, today observed fast here against the Centre's "apathy" towards rain-hit farmers in the state. The four-hour fast was part of the statewide bandh call till 2 PM, given by the BJP in protest against Centre's "indifferent" attitude towards farmers hit by unseasonal rains and hailstorm in parts of the state recently.
Chouhan appealed to Centre to provide a special package of Rs 5,000 crore for Madhya Pradesh to deal with the crisis. "Our entire Cabinet would go to Delhi to apprise the Union government about the current situation," the chief minister said in his address. "We have already earmarked Rs 2000 crore for providing relief to farmers and this is just the beginning...We will take all possible measures to provide aid to affected farmers," Chouhan said, adding that various organisations and people have donated Rs 7.42 crore for the cause of farmers during the sit-in protest held at a ground near New Market are.
Chouhan said even as the Centre cold-shouldered farmers, people of Madhya Pradesh stood behind them in the hour of crisis.
On the occasion, he demanded to constitute a permanent National Disaster Relief Fund to deal with such crises and also appealed to people to donate generously in the Chief Minister's disaster relief fund. Chouhan also hit out at opposition Congress for describing his visit to the affected villages as "Ola paryatan" (hail tourism) and alleged that Congress leaders were insensitive towards the plight of farmers. He also asked Centre to "rationalise" the current crop insurance scheme by making it more practical so that farmers get actual damage caused to their crop.
Chouhan also criticised Centre for not providing any relief to the loss caused to soybean crops, not purchasing gram crop on minimum support price (MSP) of Rs 3100 per quintal and also not recognising Madhya Pradesh as basmati rice producing region.
Chouhan alleged the Centre was doing so at the behest of Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) and also because of Pakistan's opposition to the move. "APEDA has joined hands with Pakistan for doing injustice to the farmers of Madhya Pradesh," he alleged.
Cabinet Ministers including Kailash Vijaywargiya, Jayant Mallaiya, Uma Shankar Gupta and Babulal Gaur also observed fast.
Meanwhile, the state unit media incharge of BJP, Hitesh Bajpai claimed the shutdown as totally successful and peaceful in the entire state.
Yesterday, state unit BJP chief Narendra Singh Tomar had said, "When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had no time to meet the MP Chief Minister during his last visit to Delhi on the issue of farmers despite the fact that he was present in the national capital, the BJP is left with no option except to resort to protest."