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Subadh Kumar Nayak

Sambalpur/ Bargarh: Intensifying agitation against the introduction of centralised token system for procurement of paddy in the current kharif season, hundreds of irate farmers in Bargarh barged into the Collectorate and locked the main gate demanding intervention of the Collector.

Following a discussion with the leaders of the farming community, the Collector said that the meeting was productive and paddy procurement at mandis will begin tomorrow. He also mentioned that the agitating farmers have agreed to the proposal of the government.

However, gainsaying the Collector, the farmers' leaders said that they still remain firm in their demands and want the government to withdraw the token system immediately.

Earlier today, a scuffle broke out between the farmers and police outside the Collector's office while the cops tried to waylay the former. The district Food and Civil Supplies office also bore the brunt of the farmers as a section of farmers locked the office and staged a demonstration.

In Attabira, the agitating farmers burnt effigy of State Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare minister Ranendra Pratap Swain.

Likewise in Sambalpur district, hundreds of farmers reportedly staged protest by placing paddy sacks in front of the houses of Sambalpur MLA Jaynarayan Mishra, Rairakhol MLA Rohit Pujari, Rengali MLA Nauri Nayak and Kuchinda MLA Kishore Chandra Nayak.

The farmers' protest began from Dhanupali where Rengali MLA's house is situated. Raising slogans against the token system and demanding its immediate withdrawal, several farmers brought paddy sacks in a tractor and staged demonstration by placing the bags in front of the legislator's house.

Later, the farmers gheraoed Rohit Pujari's house in Sakhipada, Jaynarayan Mishra's house in Nandapada and Kishore Chandra Nayak's house to press their demands.

"Leaders of both the ruling and opposition parties had assured to raise the issue in the ongoing winter session of the Assembly. However, no one has spoken anything in this regard yet. During election they claim to give priority to local issues rather than the political party, but they actually don't practice what they preach. There is a nexus between all the political leaders. We have launched this protest to warn them that we will continue to fight for our rights," said Murari Prasad Purohit, a farmer.

The agitating farmers also threatened to intensify their protests if their demands are not met. "Despite our repeated demands, if the State government fails to withdraw the token system, we will intensify our protests in Western Odisha and the government will be responsible for any eventuality," threatened farmer leader, Ashok Kumar Pradhan.

It is worthwhile to note that earlier the State government had implemented the Paddy Procurement Automation System (P-PAS) for procurement of paddy in the State. However, it has now introduced the centralised token system for the purpose which the farmers are protesting.

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