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Odishatv Bureau

Bhubaneswar: The Odisha government is mulling a proposal to set up a farmer welfare fund to provide compensation to the kin of farmers committing suicide. Such a proposal signifies that the State government which has been blatantly denying farmer suicides due to crop loss is gradually acknowledging that the farming community especially the share croppers is grappling with indebtedness.

An important decision regarding the proposal was taken during a meeting presided by the Chief Secretary AP Padhi. The minutes of the meeting stated that the state government is considering imposing a cess on sale of agriculture land to create a corpus fund which along with budgetary provisions will provide assistance to farmers in distress. The initial collections from the fund could be used for ex-gratia in cases of unnatural deaths of farmers, the minutes revealed.

The move comes in the wake of several farmer suicide incidents like that of Brunda Sahu & Hadu Bagarti allegedly due to crop loss and financial burden leading to a flurry of controversies.

The decision for setting up the fund meanwhile, has received mixed reactions from political parties and the farming community.

"Till now the Swaminathan Commission's findings and proposals have not been implemented. Similarly market conditions, insurance schemes are not conducive and there is also a lack of appropriate infrastructure. If we do not ensure these primary requirements first and talk about setting up a fund then it will not solve the problems,” a farmer leader said.

The BJP has welcomed the decision of the state government but has suggested some other recommendations.

"The decision to convert agricultural land into non-agricultural and collect cess from the transaction is a good step but the state government should take immediate measures to introduce amendments to Land Reforms Act," State BJP general secretary Prithviraj Harichandan said.

It is to be noted that the Section 6(2) of the act prevents land owners from leasing out land for sharecropping and hence the state government is also considering a move to remove the provision entirely.

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