Amid pitched political battle, Odisha paddy farmers continue to suffer

Subarnapur/Ganjam: Paddy farmers across Odisha continue to face hardship as mandis in many parts of the State are yet to open. While some of the farmers are selling their paddy at lower prices to agents from other States, others are spending sleepless nights guarding the paddy outside mandis.

According to sources, as many as 13,000 gunny bags filled with paddy are lying in one of the mandis in Subarnapur and the situation is quite similar in other mandis as well.

“We brought the paddy 15 days back and were told that millers will buy them but nothing has been done yet. We are having a hard time here sleeping outside in this cold weather guarding the paddy,” a farmer from Subarnapur, Ajit Kumar Sahu said.

Another farmer B Bala Raju from Gajapati said “Citing that the colour of the paddy has changed, the millers are not buying them so we are forced to sell them to agents from outside the State at a price of Rs 1100 to Rs 1200 per quintal.”

As per government reports, out of the 2,588 Primary Agricultural Cooperative Societies(PACS) who participated this year in the paddy procurement process, mandis have opened in 2,426 PACS as of January 5. Nearly 3,39,087 farmers have already sold 19,69,710 metric tonnes of paddy.

Even though there were directions by the Food Supplies Department to pay the farmers within 24 to 72 hours of procurement, Rs 587 crore is still pending to be paid to farmers.

Meanwhile, Food Supplies Minister Surjya Narayan Patra has assured that action will be taken against the people who are not opening the mandis. “There will be departmental action if they don’t open the mandis for procurement of paddy,” Patra said.

On the other hand, Opposition parties have targeted the State government.

“The State government officials have a nexus with the mill owners to get funding for elections. The farmers of Odisha are being forced to sell their paddy at low prices,” Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said.

Similarly Senior Congress leader Suresh Routray alleged that the State government doesn’t care about the paddy farmers.

“Paddy is not being bought in any mandis. They had just gone to Delhi for fun and not for the welfare of the farmers,” Routray said.