Despite record paddy procurement in Odisha, farmer continue protests

Published on Feb 27, 2021 02:20 PM IST

Farmers across Odisha are resorting to wildcat protests against the procurement system.

Farmers in Odisha's Bargarh district blocking National Highway 58 in protest against alleged irregularities in paddy procurement.(HT PHOTO)
Farmers in Odisha's Bargarh district blocking National Highway 58 in protest against alleged irregularities in paddy procurement.(HT PHOTO)
ByDebabrata Mohanty

Amid continuing farmers’ protest over paddy procurement in Odisha, a BJP legislator from western Odisha district of Deogarh, has threatened to immolate himself alleging irregularities at procurement centres in his district.

“I will immolate self if the paddy procurement process was not streamlined and faulty token system was not addressed,” BJP MLA Subash Chandra Panigrahi threatened the legislative assembly on Friday while senior Congress leader from Bolangir district, Narasingha Mishra staged protest in the middle of the House alleging irregularities in procurement.

Panigrahi’s threat came just days after state cooperation minister Ranendra Pratap Swain told the assembly that the paddy procurement during the 2020-21 kharif marketing season had crossed last year's record. Against procurement of 53.31 lakh tonne of paddy in 2019-20 kharif marketing season, Odisha State Civil Supply Cooperation had procured over 57.67 lakh tonne of paddy till February 25.

Despite the record paddy procurement this season, farmers across the state resorted to wildcat protests against the procurement system.

Unlike previous years, this year, the protest from farmers and farmer organisations in Odisha during the paddy procurement seems to be shriller across the state.

In Harichandanpur block of Keonjhar district, angry farmers staged a dharna and blocked the highway bypass by pilling up sacks of unsold paddy on Wednesday stopping vehicular movement along the Naranpur-Duburi road.

In Patrapur area of Balasore district, hundreds of farmers stacked their paddy on road, protesting the delay in procurement. Last week, in western Odisha district of Bargarh, farmers dumped around 5000 quintals of unsold paddy protesting the non-procurement. In Angul district, farmers under the banner of All India Kishan Khet Majdoor Sangathan hit the streets demanding the withdrawal of the faulty token system for procurement of their crops.

“We have been waiting for last several days to sell our paddy stocks. Yet the officials seem to be unmoved. We have become victims of apathy of the state government," the farmers alleged.

Balasore district president of Odisha Krushak Sabha, Premaranjan Patra said unlike previous years, this year the farmers in other parts of the state have been inspired by the protests in north India over the three new contentious farm laws.

"The continuing protests and its coverage on social media has definitely made an impact on farmers in villages who are not willing to stay silent," said Patra.

However, Biswajit Keshari Das, managing director of Odisha Civil Supply Corporation that procures the paddy from the farmers through primary agricultural cooperative societies, women self help groups, large sized adivasi multipurpose cooperative societies and pani panchayats said this year the procurement has exceeded last year’s due to increased registration of farmers at mandis.

"Last year, 12 lakh farmers had registered while this year close to 15 lakh farmers have registered. We may cross 60 lakh tonne of paddy procurement this time by the end of March as procurement is still going on in coastal Odisha," said Das. He said that despite the record procurement, storing the paddy was not an issue as it is being rolled over to FCI which accepts surplus rice and evacuates it to other consuming states.

Paddy procurement plays a critical role in the state's rural economy. Odisha is among the top rice-surplus states in the country. Paddy is purchased from farmers who register themselves with their nearest societies before the start of procurement operations by submitting their personal/land/ bank account details through a pre designed registration form.

The societies digitize the registration forms and upload the details in the Farmer Registration portal. All farmers have to provide identity proof in terms of Aadhaar cards. Registered farmers are then given advance tokens through SMS about the date of purchase.

Farmer leader Lingaraj said the growing unrest over paddy procurement in Odisha this year had more to do with the state's inability to put its paddy purchase centres in order. "Odisha could procure mere 49 per cent of the total rice produced in the state during 2018-19 while in 2019-20 it could procure just about 53 per cent. Over the last few years, Odisha is witnessing record production of paddy and is unable to decide on how much to procure. It needs to put its mandis in order or else the government would face a bigger crisis during next year," he warned.

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