Reported by Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, Aug 11:
Even though the Odisha government has been claiming that it was taking every possible step to resolve the potato crisis, it is at a loss to explain why the West Bengal government imposed restrictions on supply of potato to the state.
On Saturday, the government had declared that the potato crisis is over as the West Bengal government had allowed free movement of potato laden trucks into Odisha.
Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik had reportedly discussed the potato crisis in the state with his West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee on Friday and urged her to allow the potato-laden trucks stuck at the West Bengal border to pass. The chief secretary and development commissioner of Odisha had also held discussions with the West Bengal state officials to resolve the impasse.
However, the Bengal government re-imposed restrictions the following day, thus aggravating the situation arising out of acute shortage of the tuber.
Several hundred trucks have been stopped near the check gate at Odisha-Bengal border due to security checks by West Bengal police, sources said.
The state government has only been saying that since the West Bengal government has not issued any formal or official declaration on imposition of restrictions on potato supply to Odisha, it is at a loss to explain why potato-laden trucks headed for Odisha have been stopped at the inter-state border.
“This is an undeclared restriction by West Bengal government over transportation of potato to Odisha. We have no information about the reason behind the restriction. However, we are in a dialogue with the West Bengal government to resolve the deadlock,”said Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare secretary Madhusudan Padhi.
The departmental minister Sanjay Dasburma, however, said the state government is keeping a close watch on the situation in West Bengal where potato trader associations are on dharna protesting against the state government’s decision to stop movement of potato to Odisha.
The state administration, which has its back to the wall over the issue, faces a stiff challenge now over supply of potato and also to keep the rising prices of the kitchen essential under any effective check.
Ironically, potato farmers in Bengal have had to go for distress sale following absence of adequate cold storage facilities in the state. This year, the potato production is Bengal was nearly 95 lakh tons (1 crore tons as per the government records).
The 430 potato cold storages in West Bengal can stock at the most about 60 lakh tons. The rest 35 to 40 lakh tons have to be sold fast, traders argue, because it happens to be a perishable commodity. But with restrictions imposed on export of potato from Bengal, the farmers in the neighbouring state have had to suffer heavy losses, sources said.