The opposition Congress and ruling partner Shiv Sena have slammed Maharashtra’s Agriculture and Civil Supplies ministers for joining a foreign tour while the state’s farm sector is in distress and tur growers hit by fall in prices.
Senior Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging his intervention for the recall of the ministers, who are on a “junket” as part of a legislative delegation to Australia, Singapore and New Zealand.
He said that the farmers in state were on warpath and the presence of these two ministers at home were crucial. Agriculture Minister Pandurang Fundkar and Food and Civil Supplies minister Girish Bapat are part of the delegation led by Assembly Speaker Haribhau Bagde.
Tur growers are in the grip of a crisis with the price of the commodity dwindling due to a bumper production. In his letter to Modi, Chavan, a former chief minister, recalled that the PM himself had called for increasing pulses production and the farmers in the state had responded to it with a record production of Tur dal.
Sadly, the government procurement system has badly let them down, he said. Tur producing farmers were pressing for procurement of their output at MSP (minimum support price) rates throughout the Marathwada and Vidarbha regions of the state and the number of farmer suicides was rising, Chavan said.
Instead of making personal efforts to resolve the crisis, Agriculture minister along with the Food and Public Distribution minister had gone abroad as part of the delegation led by the Speaker. “It is appalling that these two ministers directly responsible for handling the current farm crisis have gone on a 15-day junket along with their family. The timing could not be worse. Farmers in the state are shocked,” Chavan said.
“I am sure you are aware that as per rules of business, specific sanctions from the Chief Minister and the PMO are mandatory before any minister of the state government is permitted to travel abroad. Surely, these two ministers have obtained prior permission before leaving,” he said.
He said, “I request you to ask the Chief Minister to immediately recall these two ministers back to their duty. The legislative delegation led by the Speaker can continue on their visit. I am sure you will appreciate the seriousness of the matter and take appropriate steps.”
Chavan posted this letter on his Twitter handle and tagged Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in it. Legislators cutting across party lines are also on the tour, organised as part of a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) initiative. Half the tour cost is borne by the members and the rest by the CPA.
Shiv Sena leader and state Environment Minister Ramdas Kadam also criticised his BJP colleagues in the cabinet for joining the foreign tour when farmers were suffering due to unseasonal rains in different parts of the State.
“It is insensitive to go on a foreign tour when the farmers are in trouble and need the support (of the ministers),” Kadam said.
Kadam also targetted the Congress and NCP legislators for joining the tour.
“Those who were demanding farm loan waiver are also part of the tour. They have no right to take out Sangharsh Yatras for farmers. It is because of the policies of the previous Congress-NCP government that the farmers and the state have become debt ridden,” he said.
Till April 22, 40 lakh quintal tur worth Rs 1,839 crore was procured by Maharashtra at Rs 5050, including bonus of Rs 425, from 2,58,341 farmers.
Earlier this week, Chief Minister Fadnavis had directed officials concerned to complete the procurement of tur in the next five to six days. He had asked officials to work in two shifts and complete the procurement of tur on war footing.
Also, the state government has decided to call for a global tender to auction tur.