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Suryakant Jena

Bhubaneswar: While on one hand huge quantities of paddy are lying in the open at various mandis across the State due to alleged lapses, the State government's decision to close the paddy procurement process for Kharif season two months in advance has drawn sharp criticisms.

As per information, the Food and Supplies department has decided to close procurement of Kharif paddy by the end of February instead of the usual deadline of April.

In a letter to collectors of 19 districts, the Food and Supplies department has directed to shut down the procurement process from the midnight of February 28. Other districts where paddy procurement began earlier have been asked to stop paddy collection by February 12 and some others have been directed to close the process by February 20. The collectors have been asked to issue remaining tokens to farmers by February 25 and millers have also been asked to lift the paddy stock by 4 PM on March 1.

It is believed that the State government has decided to close paddy procurement process ahead of schedule due to early completion of procurement targets.

Supplies Minister Surjya Patro said, "The government has procured around 45 lakh metric tonne paddy so far this season which is 45 percent more than the last year's record at this time of the year. We fear that since we have achieved our target, if we extend the deadline, then it may spur the brokers to carry out paper transactions without actually procuring paddy."

But shockingly, the decision has been made at a time when there is a huge outcry over alleged irregularities in mandi operations and high handedness of millers. From Nuapada to Motanuapada on Odisha-Chhattisgarh border to Basudevpur in coastal Bhadrak, thousands of quintals of paddy are lying out in the open in front of mandis.

Kamalakanta Mallick, a farmer of Baudevpur said," I had brought around 120 bags of paddy to the mandi; but it has been 20 days, my paddy bags have not been procured and lying in the open."

Alleging a secret nexus with millers, the Opposition has now cornered the State government saying that the early closure of procurement is aimed at favouring millers.

"The leaders of the ruling-party are so well fed by millers with money that the government is reluctant to take stringent action," said BJP General Secretary Prithviraj Harichandan.

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