Mrunal Manmay Dash

The Odisha Assembly monsoon session witnessed stormy proceedings on Monday after the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party demanded the formation of a House Committee to study the drought situation in the State so that the farmers can be duly compensated for their crop loss.

Targetting the State government, the Opposition Chief Whip, Mohan Majhi alleged that the entire government machinery has gone into defensive mode by not taking preemptive measures to ward off the drought fears. “The government has never made a long-term project for the farmers who face drought situation almost every alternate year,” Majhi said.

He demanded the formation of a House committee at the earliest to study the ground situation and declare drought in the State so that a financial package could be announced for the farmers who have already suffered crop loss.

Similarly, the Congress party too demanded immediate disbursal of compensation for the drought-stricken farmers. MLA Adhiraj Panigrahi said, “The government should release compensation to the farmers either through input subsidy or a financial package.”

“Both the Centre and the State should declare Rs 20,000 each input subsidy for the farmers,” demanded Panigrahi.

However, the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) chose to play it safe over demands for a drought package. MLA Bhupinder Singh said, “The IMD’s prediction of a good monsoon this year fell flat. So we were caught off guard.”

As far as the demands of compensation are concerned Rs 504 Cr has already been paid to the landless farmers. Similarly, Rs 740 Cr have been disbursed to the small and marginal farmers of the State. “All this money serves the purpose of drought compensation as well,” Singh said.

Meanwhile, former Chief Minister and Congress leader Hemananda Biswal was spotted performing a havan at Thakurpada village under Jharsuguda district seeking relief for the farmers from the impending drought in Odisha.

Speaking to reporters, Biswal said that he has seen the State facing drought situation whenever the month of August went dry. The government should not waste time and declare drought in the State, he said.

Not far from Jharsuguda, the farmlands in the town of Rairakhole in Sambalpur sported the same parched look without sufficient rainfall, prompting the farmers of Bharatipur Panchayat take to streets and submitted a memorandum to the Sub-Collector demanding immediate compensation.

It is pertinent to mention here that Odisha Agriculture Minister Arun Kumar Sahoo on Sunday asked the ground level authorities to maintain a strict vigil on the drought-like situation which has emerged in the State in the wake of severe deficit rainfall this monsoon.

Sahoo chaired a high-level meeting with district and block level officials of the Departments of Agriculture, Horticulture, Water Division, Livestock Development and Fisheries through video conferencing in this regard on Sunday.