Initiatives as a Minister
He first became a minister in the Madhya Pradesh state government in 1980. Initially, he held the portfolios of agriculture, fisheries, animal husbandry with the rank of minister of state with independent charge, and then was promoted as a cabinet minister with the irrigation and command area development portfolios. Among the major decisions taken by him during this period are:-
- Increase in the area under the soyabean crop,leading to making the state -a soya state. Today, Madhya Pradesh is the number one soyabean grower in the country contributing about 60 percent of the output. But the soyabean revolution actually gained momentum when he was the minister of agriculture. (The state of Madhya Pradesh experienced a 38-fold increase- in area (to 615800 ha in 1983 and a similar increase in production (to 440300 mt in 1983) during the period 1972-1983- from Soyabean development in India by S Bisaliah in a FAO publication). Much of this increase took place in Digvijay Singh's tenure as agriculture minister.
- He divided the state into agro-climatic zones and introduced alternate crops in Chhattisgarh region like groundnut and cotton and soyabean. In the Chattisgarh this was not very successful due to various reasons
- He localised the recruitment of gramsewaks that improved the local job opportunities and better control over their performance.
- He abolished the practise of issuing licenses for fishing in river waters, thus removing the contractors and allowing the fishermen and land oustees of projects to become the real beneficiaries as they got the rights to fish in river waters
- He developed Chinese hatcheries near the irrigation dams to meet the fish seed requirements. This also brought an end to the practice of fish seed purchase that was prone to controversy and corruption as the size of the fish seeds was so small so as to make a quality-check impossible. He also introduced the idea of fish ladders in the waste weirs.
- He took steps to protect and promote the indigenous varieties of cattle and set-up milk collection and chilling centres on the pattern of Anand cooperative. During this phase of Operation Flood, the state emerged as one of the major milk producers in the country-FAO report.
- He took up the challenge of increasing the utilisation of created irrigation potential as this is one of the neglected areas. Reflecting his belief that the stakeholders are the solution providers, he introduced farmers participation in irrigation management. He improved that land that was affected by water logging in the Tawa area. He also entrusted the repair and maintenance work of the minors and field channels in the domain of the irrigation panchayats, when he became the chief minister.
- In this phase, he also amended the Mandi act and strengthened the Mandi board. He also took decisions to modify the practices regarding weighment of the grains brought to the market by farmers. In order toensure that the farmers get better prices, he took a decision to completely ban the adhatiyas- both kachha and pakka (middlemen) from the mandis. This decision was the forerunner of the e-chaupal experiment that was brought in 2000, and is now a major success in agri-business.
- As minister for irrigation, he took strong action against officers who were facing enquiries for irregularities. He also negotiated the funding for a minor irrigation project with the World Bank.