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Devbrat Patnaik

Bhubaneswar: Thousands of farmers marching towards the Capital city for the mega convention in Lower PMG seemed unstoppable today. The attempts of police to foil the rally and prevent the farmers from entering Bhubaneswar failed to dampen their spirits to continue the march for the convention organised under the aegis of Naba Nirman Krushak Sangathan (NNKS) demanding price, prestige and pension.

Despite imposition of Sec 144 in Tamando area on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar, hundreds of farmers managed to break police cordon and entered Bhubaneswar to join the congregation.

Meanwhile, an inter-ministerial committee comprising Agriculture and Panchayati Raj Minister and Cooperative Minister has been formed under the chairmanship of Finance Minister Sashi Bhusan Behera to prepare terms of reference to discuss the demands of farmers.

"We urge the farmers to come forward for a discussion with the State government. We are ready to discuss the demands of the farmers," stated Behera.

Threatening to intensify the agitation, NNKS Convener Akshay Kumar said, "The formation of inter-ministerial committee is an attempt to cheat us as the press release issued by the committee doesn't mention anything about pension to farmers. If farmers are barred from entering Bhubaneswar, politicians too will not be allowed to enter our villages."

The farmers’ association has been demanding fair price, pension and prestige for 36 lakh farmers of the State for the past eight years but the government is not paying heed to the demands, Kumar alleged.

In response to the 'barbarism', former Kendrapara MP Baijayant ‘Jay’ Panda tweeted, "Farmers who are staging peaceful protests for their rights had requested state govt earlier yesterday, but it is unfortunate that Odisha govt clamped section 144 triggering tension; such violation of people's fundamental rights is condemnable."

"There was no need for Section 144 & forceful stopping of the Farmers rally from entering Bhubaneswar. They'd marched peacefully to voice their plight. Why should the state govt disallow this rally from the capital when ruling party louts do it regularly & violently??" Panda added.

BJP State chief Basant Panda said, " The State government is hoodwinking farmers repeatedly with false promises. Although farmers are staging agitation in a democratic manner, efforts are being made to throttle their voices."

Ahead of the mega farmers’ convention, Baijayant Panda and many senior leaders including OPCC chief Niranjan Patnaik extended support to the agitation and were seen joining the rally on Sunday.

“Despite many hurdles put up by state govt, including clamping Section 144 in areas where many more farmers were on their way here. Very unfortunate, no need to suppress such peaceful protest. It also unnecessarily provokes farmers, who face genuine problems,” the former Kendrapara MP had tweeted yesterday in support of the agitation.

Opposition leader Narasingha Mishra too condemned the Odisha government's attempt to prevent farmers from entering Bhubaneswar stating the move as undemocratic.

"Can the farmers be deprived of their basic rights only because of the protest? This is completely undemocratic and proves that this government is anti-farmer," Mishra said.

Yesterday, hundreds of members of NNKS were detained by police at Hanspal and Tamando area where they were forced to spend the night.

Accusing the Odisha government of being indifferent towards their long-standing demands of fair price, pension and prestige, the NNKS launched an 8-day ‘Jan Satyagraha Padayatra’ from October 29.

“We demand a security allowance of Rs 5000 per month for all the 36 lakh farmers and for that the State government must come up with an annual budget allocation of Rs 21,600 crore for farmers. If the government fails to do so, 50,000 farmers from Kuakhia area in Bhubaneswar and 50,000 farmers from Balugaon will begin padayatra on October 29. There will be a gathering of 3 lakh farmers in Bhubaneswar on November 5,” NNKS Convener had said a few days ago before the launch of the padyatra.

He had further threatened the State government stating that NNKS will create an emergency-like situation resulting in President’s rule in the State, if the government doesn’t listen to their demands.

Speaking on the issue, Food and Supply minister Surya Narayan Patra said,"Those who are more than 60 years of age, State government is providing them pension of Rs 300. If they are demanding more than that then it is for the committee to decide."

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