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Paddy bonus on poll eve

- Govt attributes decision to weather effect on harvest

Patna, Jan. 18: The state government today announced a bonus of Rs 250 per quintal for paddy procurement during the current kharif season, implying an additional burden of Rs 250 crore on the exchequer.

The decision was taken at today’s agriculture cabinet meeting, which was convened to review the progress of the government’s ambitious Rs 1.5-lakh crore agriculture roadmap, to usher in a rainbow revolution in the state in the next five years. It was chaired by chief minister Nitish Kumar and attended by several ministers and senior officials.

The decision, taken during the first meeting of the agriculture cabinet since the JD(U)-BJP split, was interpreted as Nitish Kumar’s “venture” to woo farmers ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. The agriculture cabinet had last met on June 12 last year. The ruling alliance had parted ways on June 16.

“The state government has decided to give bonus of Rs 250 per quintal on the procurement of paddy to promote it and give incentive to the farmers, who produced crops in spite of deficient rainfall and Cyclone Phailin. The farmers would now get Rs 1,560 per quintal on paddy against the current support price of Rs 1,310 per quintal,” chief secretary Ashok Kumar Sinha told reporters in a post-cabinet briefing.

Sinha added that it was the highest-ever bonus announced by any state government in the country. The bonus would be given even to those farmers who have already sold their paddy at procurement centres of the government and its agencies.

Expressing hope that the move would have a good impact on paddy procurement, Sinha said the decision was likely to put an additional annual burden of Rs 250 crore on the state exchequer.

“The state government and its agencies would be able to procure 10 lakh tonnes of paddy by end-March,” Sinha said, adding that the government was ready to buy paddy from all those who would come to procurement centres to sell their produce.

Asked why the government has reduced its procurement target from 30 lakh tonnes to 10 lakh tonnes, he attributed it to the possible decline in paddy production this year owing to deficient rainfall or poor weather conditions.

Sinha, accompanied by principal secretary, agriculture, Vivek Kumar Singh, said the agriculture cabinet also decided to set up two committees under the chairmanship of the chief minister’s agriculture adviser. Both the committees would have vice-chancellors of two state agriculture universities and the principal secretary, agriculture.

The committee would carry out studies on vagaries of weather, which has adversely affected state’s agriculture production. It would suggest ways to execute agriculture schemes in 2014-15 to help protect the adverse impact of unpredictable weather conditions.

The other committee, which too would be headed by the chief minister’s agriculture adviser, would submit its report about the site of the proposed Sugarcane Research Institute in Champaran.

The government intends to plant trees around riverbanks to increase the forest cover area from present nine per cent to 15 per cent, Sinha said.

The agriculture cabinet also decided to formulate a policy to provide incentive to the manufacturing units of agricultural implements in the state.


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