Odisha's profile is changing. Transformation is happening from schools, colleges, hospitals to temples, ponds and bridges. But the fate of the farmers seems to have not changed. Odisha's ‘annadatas’ are dying silent deaths one after the other. More than half a dozen farmers have reportedly committed suicide in the last eight months.
Even after 75 years of independence, farmers are going through such misery and hardship that they are forced to take the extreme step of suicide. Isn't it a matter of great concern for our country and the state?
Why is this happening when the state government claims to have made all kinds of arrangements for the betterment of agriculture and farmers?
On the night India beat New Zealand in the semi-finals of the Cricket World Cup (November 15), the sky was lit with colourful fireworks. However, Ramesh Bhoi's family was under a dark shadow at that time. Bhoi was an ‘annadata’ of this state. His life revolved around the ploughs and his farmland. Bhoi played the match of his life on that night. But in the end, he lost it.
Putting all his might, he borrowed money and cultivated 10 acres of land. However, the crop was damaged due to insects. He took the extreme step thinking all his efforts were in vain. Bhoi himself consumed the pesticide he had brought to kill the insects. He was admitted to the hospital in a very critical condition. But he could not be saved.
On hearing this, his wife Khiradri, who was sitting on the medical verandah with two sons and daughters, fell on her head. The fireworks of India's victory bursting in the sky felt like falling on Khiradri's head. The news of India reaching the final leg of the World Cup the next day appeared in big letters on the front pages of major newspapers. It also carried news of the suicide of Bhoi, a farmer from the state, but in a small corner.
After the news of the suicide of Ramesh Bhoi, a farmer from Bubel village under Puintala police station in Bolangir district spread, his house saw the arrival of agriculture officials, farmer organisations and leaders of various political parties. Photographs were taken, the investigation, monitoring and post-mortem of the case went on for 3-4 days and various demands were put forth before the government.
We do not know how the government will help them and what will the family get, but the state lost a farmer, two children lost their father and Khiradri lost her husband. Who is responsible for that?
It's not just Bhoi, Govind Sahu of Ranpur, Ostpada had reportedly committed suicide by consuming poison just 10 days before. Nityanandparida, a farmer from Dharamshala, Bajabati in Jajpur district, Alekh Bhoi of Umrod village under Padmapur Gaisilet police station on September 26, Gaur Karji of Patachada village under Mohana block of Gajapati district on October 15, Ramkrishna Patra of Badhimukh village of Amarda panchayat of Mayurbhanj district on April 11.
It has come to light that one after another ‘Annadatas’ of Odisha, who have given food to the mouth of this country and State, are being washed down.
The farmers of Odisha are going through a lot of grief, hardship and misery. At times, due to lack of rain, the fields dry out and sometimes the crops are damaged by the unseasonal rain. In some places, there is pest infestation, and in some places, elephant herds damage the crops.
Mismanagement in irrigation, excessive electricity bills to provide water to the fields, fraud in fertilizers, seeds, and medicines; when the farmer reaches the mandi after overcoming so many hurdles, he is forced to face various irregularities there too.
Odisha Govt's Steps vs Improvement of Farmers' Situation
The 23-year-old BJD-led Odisha government has implemented several schemes, projects and policies for the betterment of the farmers of Odisha. This government is spending more and more money every year on special budgets giving special importance to farmers and farming.
In the 2023-24 budget, Rs 24,829 crore has been allocated for agriculture, which is 20% more than the budget of the previous year. The government's 'Kalia' scheme is said to be of special significance to help the farmers. So, why the situation of farmers is not improving despite all this?
In the last few years, Odisha has been touted to have transformed, improved under the leadership of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. Steps have been taken by the state government to root out the basic problems of the people of the state. The development of the village school was also publicised. However, some special steps need to be taken to improve the situation of the farmers too. The progress of the state is impossible without the betterment of the farmers.
(By Dilip Sabat)
He can be reached at- firstname.lastname@example.org.