Coarse grain scheme in Madhya Pradesh remains on paper

Last December, Badriprasad Meena (54) from Makhan Nagar in Narmadapuram sold a total of 112.50 quintals of sorghum at the government procurement centre in Seoni Malwa tehsil. He spent Rs 21,000 just to transport the coarse grains to the centre in Banapura, located 75 km from his village.
Coarse grain scheme:- Last December, Badriprasad Meena (54) from Makhan Nagar in Narmadapuram sold a total of 112.50 quintals of sorghum at the government procurement centre in Seoni Malwa tehsil. [101Reporters]
Coarse grain scheme:- Last December, Badriprasad Meena (54) from Makhan Nagar in Narmadapuram sold a total of 112.50 quintals of sorghum at the government procurement centre in Seoni Malwa tehsil. [101Reporters]

Coarse grain scheme:- Last December, Badriprasad Meena (54) from Makhan Nagar in Narmadapuram sold a total of 112.50 quintals of sorghum at the government procurement centre in Seoni Malwa tehsil. He spent Rs 21,000 just to transport the coarse grains to the centre in Banapura, located 75 km from his village.

Although there is a rule to make full payment for the grains sold at government centres within three to seven days of procurement, he received only partial payment citing poor quality of sorghum. Badriprasad, however, claims that centre in-charge Rajendra Lovanshi had declared his sorghum to be of good quality, and had given him an invoice of Rs 3.57 lakh after accepting the purchase. He had to wait until March 15 to get the payment, but what he got was only Rs 1.78 lakh.

Badriprasad’s son Sanjay Meena (28) describes the whole incident. “After 15 days of making the purchase, Lovanshi started saying that sorghum was not of good quality, so he cannot pay much. ‘Take it away,’ he used to tell me. Nevertheless, the reality is that we had transported the produce only after the sample was passed by Lovanshi,” he says.  

Badriprasad and Sanjay allege that the sorghum was spoilt after being kept in the open at the procurement centre for 15 days. “There was no proper maintenance. The produce was so damaged that it could not be sold even in the open market,” they say.

Due to non-payment of a private loan of Rs 1.50 lakh that they had taken for farming, the family’s financial burden is increasing day by day. “We had no option but to approach the district Collector to get the money. We had taken the loan at 6% monthly interest,” they add.

Subsequently, Narmadapuram Collector Sonia Meena intervened in the matter and issued a letter to Lovanshi instructing that the farmer be paid the full amount. Despite this, Badriprasad did not get the full payment.

On seeking his response, Lovanshi tells 101Reporters that efforts are being made to pay the remaining amount to the farmer soon.

Alleging that farmers producing coarse grains were being harassed, Surendra Rajput, zilla sangathan mantri, Bharatiya Kisan Union, says arrangements for marketing have not been made. “If full payment is not made, we will protest,” he warns.

Aimless mission  

To boost millet production, the state government launched the Madhya Pradesh State Millet Mission Scheme on April 11 last year. Being implemented in the 2023-24 and 2024-25 fiscals, the scheme has an outlay of Rs 23.25 crore. All districts are part of the scheme, under which advanced certified seeds of coarse grains will be provided to farmers at a subsidy of 80% from cooperative/government institutions.

Training for farmers, fairs, workshops, seminars, food festivals and road shows will be organised at the district and state levels to promote production, processing and marketing of millets. However, the reality is that millet farmers in Madhya Pradesh are not even aware of the scheme. 

In Mandla district, the tribal community consumes coarse grains mainly sorghum, kodokutki and bajra. Naval Singh Maravi (51) from Rampuri says that in the last kharif (June-July 2023) season, he sowed kodo and kutki seeds that he had stored in his home on one acre each to get 23 quintals of kodo millet and 12 quintals of kutki millet.

Maravi has no information about the millet scheme and its benefits. Other villagers also do not have any information in this regard. If they had got the benefits under the scheme, they could have done farming more vigorously to earn better profits. At present, kodo rice is sold at Rs 25 per kg and kutki rice at Rs 38 to 40 per kg in the open market.  

Shankar Tadwal (51) of Barda village of Sondwa tehsil of Barwani district cultivates coarse grains, maize and sorghum, in three acres. He conserves the required amount of seeds for sowing at his home because the seeds are expensive when bought from the market. He says he has not received subsidised seeds from the government to date. He always keeps visiting agricultural offices in the area, but is not aware of any scheme related to coarse grains.  

Tadwal says the problem is not in producing coarse grains, but in selling. The procurement centres are very far away. It costs more to transport grains there. Also, 90% of the farmers in his village do not own a tractor-trolley. “If the grains are not sold quickly due to reasons like faulty weigh scale, network issues that stall online purchase portal or absence of quality checkers at the procurement centre, the rented tractor-trolley will have to stay at the centre for more than a day. In such cases, the rent increases day by day, and eats into the profit,” Tadwal explains.

Man Singh Gurjar (52) from Narmadapuram preserves around 600 types of seeds —  of wheat, soybean, paddy, gram, lentil, fruits and vegetables —  and gives lectures to farmers and students of agricultural colleges on seed conservation. Even he is not aware of the millet mission, because the government has not made any effort to disseminate information among farmers.

Farmers say they have been growing coarse grains for generations. Earlier, there was no cultivation of wheat, paddy, soybean and pulses. There used to be only coarse grains, but neither was it given any attention earlier nor is it being given any attention now. Many have stopped growing coarse grains.

Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Mahasangh general secretary Ravi Dutt Singh (58) says that the millet mission might be running on paper. “I have met the government officials on many occasions as a representative of farmers, yet I have no information regarding this scheme.” 

Despite the emphasis on training programmes and study tours outside the state for farmers under the millet mission, such activities have not taken off.

However, Narmadapuram District Deputy Director (Agriculture) JR Hedau tells 101Reporters that they have been informing the farmers about the scheme by organising kisan melas. He claims such a fair was organised in the district on March 4, which saw the presence of a large number of farmers. 101Reporters/SP

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