On 13 June, Yogi Adityanath’s BJP govt. of Uttar Pradesh issued costly full page advertisements in national dailies with a slew of claims about how agriculture in the state has achieved unprecedented heights under the one-year old govt. the ads, adorned with smiling faces of Prime Minister Modi and Yogi himself, assert that farmers are “happy and prosperous” in UP. A quick fact check of the claims however revealed that most of the big claims are sleights of hand.
“First Position in India”
Under this heading, it is claimed that UP is the top producer of cereals, wheat, sugarcane, potato and milk in the country with saffron coloured infographics that give the production figures for these five categories and the percentage share of total Indian production.
The trick here is that UP has been No.1 in these crops for several years now. RBI data shows that it became number 1 way back in the 1980s. This is not surprising because UP is also the largest state in the country with a share of 13% of the country’s gross sown area and a cropping intensity of 157%. UP occupies one of the most fertile swathes of the Gangetic Plains and over 80% of its sown area is irrigated.
To claim that it has the “first position in India” as if this is some kind of achievement of the Yogi govt. is disingenuous.
“Record Purchase and Payment”
This headline is followed by another series of saffron coloured infographics claiming record purchase of wheat and paddy by the govt. procurement agencies, record “payment of sugarcane price” and high purchase price for potatoes. There are several deceptions in this.
It is correct that wheat and paddy procurement has been higher than last year. But so has production! So, it is not such a big achievement. In fact the higher the production, the more farmers tend to gravitate towards the state procurement agencies because prices fall in the open market. This has been observed in previous high production years too. When production falls, as in 2016-17, due to inclement weather, procurement also goes down.
The sugarcane claim is the most bizarre. The ad claims that Rs.32,733 crore have been paid in 2017-18 compared to Rs.23,733 crore in the previous year. It fails to say that sugarcane production has increased by 20 % over the previous year – from 8.77 million tonnes to 10.51 million tonnes, as per estimates. The state advised price has been increased by only Rs.10 per quintal, that’s about 3%. Despite the insufficient increase in price, the sheer increase in output has pushed up the cost – which the Yogi govt. is now claiming as an achievement. Also, note that there were an estimated Rs.12,576 crore dues towards cane farmers as on 5 June this year after the govt. had paid Rs.22,221 crore as payment of current and previous arrears, according to the UP cane dept. At this time last year, 99% dues had been cleared while this year, 67% dues have been cleared.
The most ridiculous claim is with respect to potatoes. The ad claims that purchase price has been hiked from Rs.487 per quintal last year to Rs.549 per qtl. This year. But it also reveals that a grand total of 1294 metric tonnes of potatoes were procured by the govt. presumably at the price mentioned. Compare this to potato production in UP this year which is 151 lakh metric tonnes – as the ad says earlier on. So the good price was given to a mere 0.00009% of the produce.
Actual potato prices in 124 mandis ranged between Rs.1200 to Rs.1400 per quintal according to Agmarknet.
Perhaps Yogi Adityanath is living in some parallel universe where such claims are going to make farmers’ happy. And, perhaps opinion makers – and BJP bigwigs - in Delhi who read these advertisements, will follow the Yogi into this la-la-land.