Reported by Swetaparna Mohanty
Bhubaneswar, Dec 16:
Even as paddy procurement started in Sundargarh district today, the impasse continued in the southern and western districts of Odisha with farmers adamant on their demand that the state government should reconsider its decision to procure only 12 quintals of paddy per acre from unirrigated land and 16 quintals per acre from irrigated land.
Despite opening of procurement centres in Nabarangpur district, farmers are not turning up to sell their produce as the impasse over the quantity of paddy to be procured from farmers continues.
Farmers’ organisations are demanding procurement of 18 quintals per acre against the government decision of procuring only 12 quintals per acre from unirrigated land.
Farmer leader and spokesperson of Nabarangpur Zilla Chasi Mahasangh Jhadeswar Khadenga, who is spearheading the agitation in the district, said the per acre paddy procurement limit from unirrigated land 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, he said.
“Farmers are not willing to accept procurement of only 12 quintals per acre. That’s the reason they are not turning up at the mandis. Whoever is turning up at the mandi wants that the Government to procure 18 quintals per acre,” Khadenga told reporters today.
“I had come to the mandi expecting that the government will procure 18 quintals per acre. But they say they will accept only 12 quintals per acre. I had hired a tractor to get my paddy here. Now I have to take it back. Don’t know how I am going to pay hiring charges to the tractor wallah. I am not being told whether I should wait,” said a farmer who had come to an RMC mandi in the district.
“We can procure paddy only as per government guidelines. The government guidelines stipulate 12 quintals per acre while they are demanding procurement at the rate of 18 quintals per acre. We can’t do that,” said an official of RMC at Nabarangpur.
Nabarangpur district had observed an eight-hour shutdown on Monday 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 state government.
The shutdown call of the farmers was a success as it received support from the District Chamber of Commerce, Tractors Owners’ Association, Private Bus Owners’ Association, Taxi Owners’ Association, Masons’ Association and several other organizations.
The situation in Koraput district is no different with a dharna launched by farmer leaders from across the district in front of the Collector’s office entering the second day today. Farmers from across the district had gheraoed the Collector’s office and had sat on a dharna on Monday protesting the state government’s apathy towards their demand for revision of the procurement target.
For the last 10 days, farmers of Koraput district are on the warpath seeking revision in paddy procurement limit set by the government.
Farmers have been demanding that the target for irrigated and non-irrigated land should be revised to 25 quintals and 20 quintals respectively in view of high production this year.
As the government is yet to pay heed to their demand, they have closed down most of the mandis.
On Monday, when the farmers tried to meet Collector Yamini Sarangi to discuss the issue, the latter reportedly did not give them an audience. The irate farmers then sat on a dharna in front of the collector’s office till evening when ADM Ekadashi Jena met them and received their memorandum addressed to the collector.
The farmers said they are at the receiving end as the district administration is silent on the issue.
Except Jeypore block, procurement is yet to begin in the district.
Last week, just 10,000 quintals of paddy was procured in Kumuliput and Umuri of Jeypore block. Of 31 mandis opened in the district, most still remain closed.
In Kalahandi district, farmers demanded relaxation of Fair Average Quality( FAQ) norms as most of the paddy in the district had discoloured due to the effect of Cyclone Hudhud.
“Our paddy is discoloured due to Cyclone Hudhud. We want government to relax its FAQ standard for us. No one in our district will be able to sell paddy to the government if the FAQ norms are not relaxed,” said a farmer at a mandi near the district headquarters town of Bhawanipatna.
“We will write to the government for relaxation in the FAQ norm. But at present, we can’t deviate from the guidelines. If there is any genuine complaint of farmers being harassed or cuts being made falsely on the grounds of FAQ, we will take action,” said district Food Supply Officer.
Meanwhile. Sundargarh district, where procurement started today, has set a target to procure 73,000 metric tonnes of paddy in the first phase. The procurement target will be hiked later, said district procurement officials.
Paddy will be procured through 112 procurement centres (mandis) of 47 LAMPCS in the district apart from procurement centres of Regulated Market Committees (RMC) and Tribal Development Co-operative Corporation of Odisha Ltd (TDCC).
All arrangements have been made at the procurement centres for making online payment to farmers for the paddy procured from them. In the event of online flaws at procurement centres, farmers will be provided payment through cheques, said district administration officials.
“For the first time, paddy is being procured from farmers using the online system this year. All arrangements have been made for smooth paddy procurement in the district. Our website is open and farmers who have not registered their names can do so now,” said district Food Supply Officer.
The officer however, said that paddy will be procured from them only after procurement from those who have registered in the first phase is over.