‘Lockdown announced without any planning,’ says Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh BaghelMay 21, 2020
Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel speaks to Hindustan Times on cash-transfer scheme Rajiv Gandhi Kisan Nyay Yojna that is expected to benefit 1.9 million farmers, the Centre’s response to the Covid-19 crisis and how his state is dealing with migrant labourers. Edited excerpts:
What is the concept behind the Rajiv Gandhi Kisan Nyay Yojna, which the state government is launching on Thursday?
Firstly, most of the land in Chhattisgarh is non-irrigated, and most of the farmers are marginal and face the possibility of drought in their region. Secondly, about 40% population of the state lives below poverty line. Last year, we initiated many measures to help paddy farmers. This year, we decided to extend the benefits to sugarcane and maize farmers as well [the new scheme will benefit paddy, maize and sugarcane farmers]…The aim is to increase the income of the farmers and people…It [scheme] includes 90% of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes and state’s marginal farmers.
Social activists say that only 1.9 million farmers will benefit from the scheme. Why not all the 3 million farmers of the state?
We are launching one more scheme for landless labourers to benefit more people. I have constituted a committee today [Wednesday]. In the next two months it will submit a report; on the basis of that [report] a scheme for these landless labourers will also be framed by the government. We are working on the numbers and structure of that scheme, and we hope that more people will be benefitted.
How has the central government handled the Covid-19 crisis? Are you satisfied?
The central government always believes in ‘events’. The government announced demonetisation [of high-value banknotes in 2016] and launched the GST (goods and services tax) in the night. Similarly, the central government announced the lockdown in the country without any planning…There was no strategy or management before or after the lockdown.
How could the central government have handled it better?
If the central government was aware that the whole world was suffering due to the pandemic…, it should have been prepared… There are millions of migrants in different states. Why did the central government not start trains before the lockdown? They should have sent the migrant labourers or anyone stranded home before the lockdown… Migrants are dying and the kind of suffering everyone is facing should have been controlled.
Are you satisfied with what the Centre has given to states?
The central government announced a package of Rs 20 lakh crore, which includes Rs 1.7 lakh that was announced earlier…We, as a state, got some direct benefits. They announced that 5kg rice will be given to people for two months, but this should be extended for a year… I have asked twice to provide Rs 30,000 crore to our to encourage economic activity and give direct cash to the poor, but the Centre has not responded…
What arrangements has Chhattisgarh done for labourers passing through the state?
We have arranged for buses, food, and medical facilities for the labourers passing through our state. We have deployed buses to ferry them to their states and are very empathetic towards them. Officials have been instructed to take care of them.