Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Nabarangpur, Dec 15:
Nabarangpur district is observing an eight-hour shutdown today in response to a call given by Nabarangpur Zilla Chasi Mahasangh, a farmers’ organisation in the district, in protest against the flawed paddy procurement policy of the Odisha government.
Farmers here are demanding opening of more procurement centres (mandis) in the district for procurement of paddy from farmers. They are also demanding procurement of 18 quintals of paddy per acre, against the government decision of procuring only 12 quintals per acre in non-irrigated land.
Shops and commercial establishments downed their shutters while vehicles remained off the roads in the district headquarter town of Nabarangpur and many other places in the district as farmers held demonstrations at different places.
The bandh, which began at 6am in the morning today ended at 2pm.
The shutdown call of the farmers is being supported by the District Chamber of Commerce, Tractors Owners’ Association, Private Bus Owners’ Association, Taxi Owners’ Association, Masons’ Association and several other organizations. They too have joined the bandh call of the farmers. However essential services have been left out of the purview of the bandh call.
Farmer leader and spokesperson of the Mahasangh Jhadeswar Khadanga said the per acre paddy procurement limit was 16 quintals for the district till last year. This year, the Government has brought it down to 12 quintals though the production has increased.
“On the one hand, the government has been exhorting farmers to boost production by using fertilizers, improved seeds and other farm inputs. On the other, it not prepared to procure more from the farmers. This is the double standards of the government which is anti farmer,” said Khadenga.
He said farmers had been forced to take to the streets and warned that they would be forced to intensify their agitation if the government does not yield to their demands.
The procurement target, which is decided by the district-level paddy procurement committee every year, has been fixed by the state government this time. The downward revision of the target by the Government has gone against the interest of the farmers, he added.
Nabarangpur collector Mohammad Sadiq Alam said paddy procurement will take start in the district in full swing from tomorrow. “As most of the officials had come here for the Mondei festival, there were some problems with procurement. Since today is the last day of the festival, officials will be heading for their places of work and everything will be in order from tomorrow,” he said.
While mandis have been opened at several places of the district, the farmers are not willing to sell their produce unless the Government raises the limit to 18 quintals.
As the standoff between the farmers organizations and the government continued in the district, farmers who have brought their paddy to the centres have been stuck in the logjam waiting for procurement of their produce and payments for it. Farmers have also alleged of irregularities of payments through the online system.