Suryakant Jena

Bhubaneswar: Remaining firm in its decision, the Naba Nirman Krushak Sangathan (NNKS) today stated that it will not withdraw from its Odisha bandh call on February 21 even with the State government appealing to desist, amid concerns that the shutdown might affect students during their annual matric examinations beginning February 22.

Addressing a presser, National Convenor of NNKS, Akshay Kumar today alleviated any concerns over the bandh call. Kumar said that farmers will stage a dawn-to-dusk protest on February 21 but the examinations are scheduled to begin a day after, which in no way is going to affect the students and teachers.

And since the School and Mass Education Secretary has already clarified that the question papers will be sent to exam centres on the morning of the examination day, the bandh will not disrupt the dispatch of question papers to the centres in any which way, Kumar stated.

"Farmers have never resorted to any kind of violence while staging protests and we have urged all to demonstrate peacefully because we don't want to create problems for our own kids who will be appearing matric exams," said Kumar.

The NNKS Convenor further said that the 'examination disruption' weapon is just a ploy of the government to threaten the farmers to withdraw from the shutdown.

"Whenever we have tried to stage protests, the police have foiled our attempts by hook or crook. This is just like throttling the voice of innocent farmers which we will not tolerate. We are confident that our fight for price, pension and prestige of farmers will continue despite threats," said Kumar.

On the other hand, Police DG RP Sharma today said that adequate arrangements have been made to tackle any kind of untoward incidents during the bandh.

"The government has already appealed the NNKS to put off their strike. We have also made adequate arrangements depending on the possible intensity of the agitation, so that the shutdown does not prevent students from appearing Matric exams, especially those who will be coming from rural areas," said Sharma while appealing the farmers to stage protest in peaceful manner without causing any problems in the conduct of Matric exams.

The Odisha government in a statement on Tuesday said, "If the Sangathan still persists with their planned bandh programme, the government will be compelled to take all necessary measures to ensure smooth conduct of the examination. Action will be taken as per provisions of law. It is hoped that the organisers will realise that their action could cause inconvinence to public especially to the students and withdraw their bandh call in larger public interest."

On the other hand, lending support to the Odisha bandh called by NNKS, the BJP Krushak Morcha alleged that the State government has been mentally harrasing the farmers and preventing them from staging their protests. "We hope that the farmers will stage their agitation in a peaceful manner without causing any problems for matric exams," said BJP Krushak Morcha general secretary Surath Biswal.

However, State Agriculture Minister Sashi Bhusan Behera said, "The State government had launched several welfare schemes for farmers. But instead of cooperating in effectively implementing the schemes, the NNKS members are resorting to Odisha bandh."