In a move that will benefit 15 lakh farmers in Chhattisgarh, Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel announced to waive their outstanding irrigation taxes worth Rs 207 crore. During his Republic Day address on Saturday at the Police Parade grounds in Raipur, Baghel also called for a permanent solution to improve the economic condition of farmers. The chief minister's announcement comes just over a month after his government decided to waive farmers' short-term agricultural loans worth Rs 6,230 crore and hike the MSP for paddy to Rs 2,500, fulfilling the promises made by the Congress ahead of the Assembly polls.
"Sinchai kar (irrigation tax) to the tune of Rs 207 crore pending from around last 15 years as on October, 2018 will be written off. As many as 15 lakh farmers will be benefited from the decision," he said. "Without freeing farmers from the clutches of debts, their condition and that of their villages cannot be improved. Therefore, in the first cabinet meeting, it was decided to waive loans to the tune of Rs 6,230 crore of around 16.65 lakh farmers," he added.
"To ensure good returns to 'annadata' (farmers) for their produce, in the first cabinet meeting we fulfilled our promise to procure paddy at Rs 2,500 per quintal," he said. To improve the economic condition of farmers a permanent solution has to be chalked out and a scheme that will yield long-term results should be introduced, he added.
An extensive work plan is being prepared for the revival and conservation of village rivulets, conservation of livestock, production of organic manure and horticulture development, he said. "The remuneration of tendu leaves collectors has been increased from Rs 2,500 per sacks to Rs 4,000 per sacks, which will help in empowerment of forest dwellers and tribals," he said.
Baghel further said to ensure justice to the families of those killed in tragic Jhiram valley naxal attack in 2013, a strong step has been taken and a Special Investigation Team (SIT) was constituted to probe the incident. Similarly, another SIT was set up to probe alleged scam in state civil supply corporation, which operates public distribution system in the state, he added. Briefing about other decisions of his government, Baghel said, lands acquired for a mega steel plant in Lohandiguda area of Batsar a decade ago are being returned to farmers.
"To set up a large-scale industry in Lohandiguda of Bastar, land of more than 1,700 farmers was acquired. In ten years, neither the industry was established nor did the farmers get back their land. No ideal rehabilitation policy was followed in land acquisition. After coming to power, we decided to return land of over 1,764 hectares in 10 affected villages to ensure justice to tribal," he said.
Baghel alleged that freedom of expression was in danger in the state since the last few years. "Freedom of expression is the first condition of democracy and therefore, the state government has started drafting journalists protection law in support of a free press," he said.
Over the liquor ban in the state, Baghel said the government was moving ahead with caution on the prohibition.
"The state government has created two committees for the purpose, one of them will be an all-party political committee and the other one would be from different sections of the society," he said.
A comprehensive campaign will be run to make people aware of the ills of alcohol consumption, he added.
On the Naxal menace, Baghel said, "It is our resolution to put an end to the violent activities of anti-constitutional elements in the name of Naxalism." He, however said, steps will be taken in the direction to reach a permanent solution after taking into consideration the views of the tribals, social workes, journalists, security forces and others.
Earlier, the CM unfurled the Tricolour and received guard of honour from the joint parade of various units of security personnel, National Cadet Corps, National Service Scheme, Scout and Guide students at the Parade Ground.