BHOPAL: A week after five farmers were killed in police firing in Mandsaur district on June 6, Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is to visit the troubled area on Wednesday to meet the bereaved families.
Chouhan’s visit to Mandsaur will take place at the same time when the chief whip of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, Jyotiraditya Scindia will begin a 72-hour long Satyagraha in Bhopal on Wednesday afternoon.
Chouhan’s visit is being seen as a calculated effort to shift the public glare away from Scindia’s satyagraha.
The chief minister chaired three important meetings in Bhopal on Tuesday: one with his cabinet, followed by one with a group of ministers and higher officials to review the implementation of decisions taken by him recently, and then one with BJP legislators to urge them to publicise his farm-friendliness in their constituencies.
The cabinet meeting in the morning yet more decisions to stem the tide of anger against him: including one exempting the film Ek Thi Rani Aisi Bhi from entertainment tax. The film is based on the life of the late Vijayaraje Scindia. She incidentally is the grandmother of Jyotiraditya Scindia.
Later in the day, Chouhan reviewed his Kisan Bazars initiative to promote direct sale of farm produce to consumers and the move to amend the law to ensure that farmers’ land is not acquired for development projects without their agreement.
The chief minister is seeking to impart speed to his move to create an Agricultural Produce Price Stablisation Fund, which is aimed at averting the sort of farm crisis sweeping several districts of the state. The fund will help in determining the price of crops whose minimum support price is not announced by the central government.
In the meantime, reports emerged from the mandis of Madhya Pradesh that traders have stopped purchase of foodgrains, pulses and oilseeds following the Chouhan's announcement that purchasing below the minimum support price would be considered an offence.
Chouhan's announcement was one of the measures he promised in a bid to mollify farmers in west Madhya Pradesh.
"Business has become difficult for traders as it has become mandatory to purchase farm produce at MSP. So we have decided to shut the mandis till the withdrawal of this announcement," Sakal Anaj Dalhan-Tilahan Vyapari Mahasangh Samiti president Gopaldas Agrawal said.
The traders held a state-level meeting earlier on Tuesday.
Agrawal said that business in almost 85 percent of mandis has come to a standstill in response to the call given by his organisation.
The farmers' protest has already curtailed inflow of farm produce in mandis.
Agrawal said traders are also upset about other rules the government has announced, such as the rule that farmers should be paid half the sale proceeds in cash and the balance through Internet banking.
The Centre has set a limit of Rs 2 lakh for cash transactions while the state government is asking traders to make cash payments, he said.
"This is contradictory and impractical. Traders will have to face penalties from the Income Tax Department for cash transactions," Agrawal said.
With agency inputs