Farmers’ issues dominate Odisha Assembly

Bhubaneswar: Farmers' issues continued to dominate proceedings of the Odisha Assembly today with members cutting across party lines demanding opening of adequate number of 'mandis' in the state to facilitate agarians to sale their produce at proper price.

The farmers issue was raised by members both during the zero hour and a discussion on the subject through an adjournment motion.

The issue was first raised by the leader of opposition Bhupinder Singh (Congress) who criticised the state government for 'failing' to open adequate number of 'mandis' in all the districts. "Farmers are forced to sell off their produce at low rate due to lack of government mandis," Singh pointed out.

A section of the ruling BJD also made similar demand.

Pipili MLA and former agriculture minister Pradeep Maharathy sought a clarifiaction from the government as to why mandis were not opened even after the first week of December.

Some Congress members also demanded formation of a House Committee to inquire into the plights of farmers while prices of fertiliser, seeds and other items have soared, the farmers were being given only Rs 1250 per quintal of paddy as minimum support price. They demanded a bonus Rs 300 on each quintal of paddy.

Speaker Pradip Kumar Amat said he would soon convene an all party meeting to discuss the matter.

Soon after the zero hour, Amat allowed a discussion on irrigation potential in the state through an adjournment motion. While Congress members alleged that the government had failed to provide irrigation for agriculture, the treasury bench defended the water resources department headed by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

"When BJD came to power for the first time in 2000, it promised 100 per cent irrigation. Prior to 2004, the ruling party announced to make at least 50 per cent of cultivable land as irrigated. Again in 2009, it promised to ensure at least 35 per cent irrigation facilities in all the 314 blocks of the state," Congress Chief Whip Prasad Harichandan claimed.

Accusing the state government of failing to keep its promises, Harichandan wanted to know about the present status of irrigated land in the state.

Replying the debate, on behalf of the chief minister, Housing and Urban Development Minister Raghunath Mohanty said the BJD government during its 12 years rule had made 5.28 lakh hectares of additional land as irrigated.

The government would ensure that at least 35 per cent of the cultivable land are irrigated by end of the 12th plan period, he said.

Displeased over the minister's reply, Congress members staged walk out accusing the BJD government as "anti-farmer."