Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

Union Home Minister and senior BJP leader Amit Shah’s assurance to set up a textile mill in Bolangir district has heated up the political atmosphere in Western Odisha ahead of the upcoming 2024 General Elections.

Targeting the BJD government in his speech during the Sonepur visit on Thursday, Shah sarcastically said that though a huge amount of cotton (kappa) is being produced in Bolangir, the State government has decided to set up a textile mill in another area. Shah assured that the textile mill will be set up in Bolangir to change the fortune of thousands of cotton farmers in the district if the BJP comes to power.

Throwing their weight behind Shah’s statement, Opposition parties, local residents and farmers have slammed the State government over the development.

Vast stretches of land from Bolangir to Patnagarh are under cotton cultivation. This area which is popular to produce high-quality cotton is also known as the land of ‘white gold’. As per the statistics of the State Agriculture Department, while a target was set for cotton farming in around 62,300 hectares of land in 2023-24, farming was undertaken in around 71,000 hectares of land during the period. Moreover, 8, 15,000 quintals of cotton were produced during the year. A target has been set to do cotton farming in around 72,000 hectares of land in 2024-25.

However, the farmers have to resort to distress sale as there is no textile mill in the area. Local residents have expressed their dissatisfaction in this regard.

“The farmers in the area are suffering as we don’t have a textile mill in our area. Though a huge amount of cotton is produced in Bolangir, it is quite unfortunate that the government has decided to set up a textile mill in Eastern Odisha. As Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is fighting election from Kantabanjhi, we request him to set up a textile mill in his constituency,” said Suresh Bhoi, a cotton farmer.

“As we don’t have a textile mill in our area the raw material is being procured by mills in Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. As a result, our farmers are making less profit,” said Biswambara Sahu, Cotton Cultivation Officer, Bolangir.

As per reports, a huge amount of cotton is cultivated in Muribahal, Turekela and Bangomunda blocks under the Kantabanji Assembly constituency of Bolangir district. However, the cotton farmers in the areas don’t get much benefit out of it. As a result, thousands of people from these areas are forced to go outside the State to work as migrant labourers every year.

Earlier on January 3 this year, BJP MLA Mukesh Mahalinga had questioned the establishment of a textile mill in Khordha instead of Bolangir in the presence of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik during the inauguration of the Lower Suktel project.

While CM Naveen is going to fight from the Kantabanji seat in the upcoming election, Shah’s assurance about the setting up of a textile mill in Bolangir has stirred up a hornet’s nest in the region.

Congress leader Santosh Singh Saluja targeted Naveen Patnaik.

“CM Naveen Patnaik will contest the election from Kantabanjhi this time. I request him to set up the textile factory in the constituency. It will help to curb the migration of workers from the district to some extent. More importantly, the cotton farmers will be benefitted a lot,” said Saluja.

However, the ruling BJD termed the claims by the Opposition as an eyewash.

“It’s eyewash by the Opposition parties during the time of election. If any Union Minister comes to Odisha, he should clarify why Odisha is not getting its proper share of money from the Centre,” said BJD leader Kalikesh Narayan Singh Deo.

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