Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Mar 23:
Politics over potato today took a curious new turn in the Odisha Assembly today with ruling party members pointing fingers at the government for the distress sale of potatoes by local farmers and two ministers accusing each other for the sorry state of potato procurement.
Earlier in the day, BJD MLA Ranendra Pratap Swain raised questions over the ‘Potato Mission’ recently launched by the state government.
Congress Chief Whip Tara Prasad Bahinipati was quick to join in the attack and shouted slogans forcing the house to be adjourned twice.
The members accused that the organisations tasked with potato procurement in the state such as MARKFED, NAFED of not doing their job. Out of the targeted 39000 metric tons, these companies had procured only a miserable 200 metric tons, they pointed out.
As if the embarrassment inside the House wasn’t enough, Co-operation Minister Damodar Rout and Agriculture Minister Pradeep Maharathy locked horns outside the Assembly over potato procurement. While Maharathy accused Rout’s department of negligence, Rout blamed it on lack of co-ordination on the part of Maharathy.
“MARKFED is supposed to procure potatoes from 22 districts and NAFED from seven others. However, both these departments belong to co-operation department. My job was to get potato production boosted. I did it. Who is to buy, where to store, where to sell is none of my business,” said Maharathy.
“NAFED has been tasked to procure potatoes from seven districts. However, I am not aware of it. While there is co-ordination at officers’ level, it is missing at the ministerial level. Did the Agriculture Minister ever inform me about boosting potato production and ask me to get the marketing done? Let him answer this first,” shot back a miffed Rout.
Later in the day, Speaker Niranjan Pujari convened a meeting to deliberate upon this important issue which was attended by Co-operation Minister, Food and Supplies Minister, Agriculture Minister, Leader of Opposition and Leader of BJP legislators in the House.
The meeting decided to hold another round of meeting tomorrow by ministers of Co-operation, Food and Supplies and Agriculture department, where the procurement and storage of potato would be worked out.
The Food and Supplies Minister Sanjay Dasburma, in the meanwhile, ruled out any lack of co-ordination among these departments.