Odisha Farmers Up In Arms Against Token System

Sambalpur: Irked over introduction of centralised tokens for procurement of paddy in the current kharif season, farmers in western Odisha have threatened to launch a massive protest.

Hundreds of farmers from Sambalpur, Bargarh, Bolangir and Subarnapur districts today assembled in front of Godabhaga market in Bargarh and threatened to launch a massive protest if the government doesn’t withdraw the token system.

It is pertinent to note that earlier, Paddy Procurement Automation System (P-PAS) was implemented in the State for procurement of paddy. However, the government has introduced the centralised token system for paddy procurement in the current kharif season. As claimed by the government, under this system, tokens would be issued 15 days prior to procurement of paddy and will be sent to registered mobile numbers of farmers for selling paddy at the market yards.

However, the farmers alleged that although mandis have been opened since November 15 for procurement of paddy, many farmers have not been received the tokens yet. And those who have received the tokens, are yet to sell their paddy due to absence of government officials in the market yards, they alleged.

The farmers had also served an ultimatum to the State government to withdraw the token system by 12 pm today. “The token system has paralysed the paddy procurement and encouraging distress sale. If the government does not withdraw the token system, massive protests would be launched from Sambalpur and Bargarh districts. The protest will be subsequently extended to other districts of western Odisha,” said farmer leader Saroj.

Meanwhile, farmers locked up Atabira tehsil office after they failed to reach a consensus with the local administration.The also took out a rally to close other government offices in the area. Sources said farmers in Sambalpur have decided to stage protest by placing paddy sacks in front of district collectorate today and the residence of Sambalpur MLA tomorrow.

On the other hand, State Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare minister Ranendra Pratap Swain claimed that the protests have been launched by some middlemen and not the farmers. “Everything is fine. Farmers are not protesting against the token system, but some middlemen are against it,” said the minister.

“This token system has been introduced to bring transparency in paddy procurement and ensure that farmers sell their paddy at best price without any problem. The government is monitoring the situation and measures will be taken so that farmers don’t suffer,” he added.

The Minister today chaired a high-level meeting over farmers protesting the token system in presence of several MLAs, ex-ministers & former legislators of western Odisha.

Meanwhile, senior Congress leader Narasingha Mishra said, “Though paddy procurement was decided to begin from November 15, farmers are yet to get tokens. No one is listening to their woes.”

“The government has totally failed in paddy procurement though the token system. The government should withdraw the token system,” said BJP MLA Jayanarayan Mishra.