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Devbrat Patnaik

Bhubaneswar: For the whole year they did all the hard work that was essential for a decent produce, but to trade the same they are allegedly subjected to mental torture. Distressing scenes have come to the fore from across Odisha, where farmers are spending sleepless nights in chilly winter to protect their paddy allegedly due to irregularities in procurement at the mandis over reasons aplenty.

The State government's claim of a robust token system for paddy procurement has been put for a litmus test in Dhenkanal, Bargarh, Nuapada, Sambalpur and several other districts where thousands of quintals of paddy are lying unsold at mandis. Farmers have alleged that their paddy has not been lifted since more than a week as tokens' validity has reportedly expired.

This apart, many are protesting 'Katni Chhatni' in paddy procurement. Allegedly, farmers in Kamakhyanagar, Bargarh, Padampur, Jeypore and Kuchinda have to forego at least 4 kg paddy out of a quintal during procurement.

"We spend all night under the open skies awaiting lifting of paddy. We are clueless about when the millers will come, and make an analysis of the produce and finalise the procurement target. After all this, as per our information, paddy will be lifted, but when is that going to happen is our concern," said a farmer.

"They are subtracting at least 4 kg paddy from a quintal. Who has given them permission? Is the government doing so?" questioned another.

Similar is the situation in Kesaibahala under Bamra block. They have been allegedly told that procurement target for the market season has been achieved and token deadline also has expired, which is why their produce is not being lifted. Finally, they have gathered outside large area multi-purpose societies (LAMPS) to sell their produce.

Meanwhile in Bargarh, hundreds of farmers blocked Bargarh-Padampur road and gheraoed sub-collector's office alleging lapses in paddy procurement. Though they withdrew the stir after ACSO and RMC chairman assured them of fresh tokens, the farmers are still a distressed lot.

Close to 25000 paddy bags are lying under the open skies outside Nuapada Bhela mandi for the last two weeks. As per reports, farmers across the district have stocked around 1.5 lakh paddy bags outside different mandis, while the authorities claimed that those will be procured once target is finalised.

"The procurement system in place is extremely harassing. Paddy stocks will pile up, farmers will die, but there is no guarantee when the millers will lift the paddy," said a farmer from Nuapada.

On the other hand, the BJP is planning a massive protest alleging irregularities in paddy procurement. The BJP Krusak Morcha has threatened to intensify the ongoing agitation if the government fails to solve farmers' issues in the next 48 hours.

"The BJP today submitted a memorandum before the Bargarh Collector Padampur to resolve the issue of lapsed tokens and procure the produce in the next 48 hours," said Pradip Purohit, President of BJP Krusak Morcha.

However, Sandip Kumar Nayak, MD Kesaibahal LAMPS said the decision on reviving tokens is taken by the government. "Lapse of token is seen across Odisha. We are not authorised to revive a token which has lapsed. It is decided by the government of Odisha. If the government releases an order in this regard, purchasing another token won't be a difficult job for us," the official said.

READ | Odisha BJP To Gherao RDC Office On Jan 21 Over Paddy Procurement Blues

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