Rashmi Ranjan

Amid allegations and counter-allegations over irregularities in paddy procurement, the Standing Committee of the Odisha Legislative Assembly had recommended the installation of CCTV cameras at mandis across the State for transparent paddy procurement. 

However, the decision seems to be limited to pen and paper only as most of the mandis across the State are yet to get CCTV surveillance, or the CCTVs installed at some handful mandis are lying defunct.

For instance, Sarakanda mandi in Bargarh district is the largest procurement centre in Odisha. But surprisingly, the procurement centre does not have CCTV surveillance.

Similarly, out of the four CCTV cameras installed at Bargarh paddy procurement centre, which is under the Bargarh RMC, two are lying defunct. 

There are over 100 mandis under Bargarh, Attabira and Padmapur RMCs in Bargarh district. But with maximum mandi’s having no CCTV surveillance and Rabi procurement scheduled to begin from May 10, the farmers in the district have expressed their concerns and displeasure.

“The purchasing centres do not have a single CCTV. There are many mandis that don’t even have power connection,” said Hara Bania, a farmer from Sarakanda in Bargarh.

Similarly, the sight is no different in Kalahandi, the second-highest paddy-producing district in the State.

While the CCTV cameras installed at mandi in Dharmagarh are not functioning, the mandi in Boden area lacks basic facilities like potable water and electricity.

Prabin Kumar Panda, a farmer from Dharmagarh said, “Though there are CCTV cameras, many are not functioning. 10 packets of paddy got stolen during last season.”

Commenting on the allegations Dharmagarh sub-collector, Bedabhushan said, “In some mandis CCTVs need maintenance. We had carried out maintenance activities last season and we will do the same this year.” 

On the other hand, the Opposition said installing CCTVs will not address the plight of farmers.

“The decision to install CCTV cameras is a move to mislead the farmers. Installing CCTVs will not address the farmers’ plight. The loot will continue as usual,” said Pradip Purohit, Odisha BJP Krushak Morcha chief.

On the other hand, ruling-BJD MLA, Arabinda Dhali, said “Installing CCTVs at mandis will bring transparency in paddy procurement. I believe this is a very good step.”

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