Odisha farmers warn of non-cooperation agitation from February 2019

Bhubaneswar: With farmer protests and agricultural distress becoming a major game changer in three Hindi heartland States of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, all three major political parties in Odisha now seem to be chalking out plans to garner votes of farmers in the State. But with the State government already on the firing line over the tardy pace of paddy procurement and delay in opening of mandis, it seems their problems will worsen if they fail to fulfil the demands of the farmers at the earliest.

After a 13-day -long hunger strike failed to move the Odisha government, the Naba Nirman Krushak Sangathan (NNKS) yet again took to streets today and launched a padyatra from Raghunathpur area in Bhubaneswar towards Raj Bhawan to submit a memorandum to the Governor regarding their long-standing demands of price, prestige and pension.

Exactly what had happened last month, this time as well, a fully-prepared pre-positioned Commissionerate Police stopped the agitating farmers at Nicco Park Chhak following which the farmers sat on a dharna at the spot. The farmer’s outfit has threatened to launch a non-cooperation agitation from February 1, 2019 if the government does not fulfil their demands.

The NNKS alleged that despite several ministerial committee meetings to resolve farmers’ issues, nothing has been done so far by the government.

“Through the memorandum, we have given an ultimatum to the State government and if they do not fulfil our demands before January 31, 2019, we will launch non-cooperation agitation across the State from February 1,” warned NNKS convenor Akshay Kumar.

Meanwhile, farmers across the state have been alleging harassment by rice millers in the paddy procurement process. Similarly, Opposition parties have been targeting the ruling-BJD over alleged irregularities in paddy procurement.   Congress had earlier accused that the paddy procurement process is being hampered by the alleged nexus between millers and functionaries of the government. Besides, Opposition party chief whip had urged the State government to stop the practice of ‘Katni Chhatni’ (Reductions on weight of paddy citing sub-par ‘fair average quality’).

Reiterating this, LoP Narasingha Mishra today demanded the resignation of Agriculture Minister and said, “The paddy procurement process is yet to begin in many places in Western Odisha while farmers are being exploited by the mill owners & middlemen. If the minister doesn’t take any action against the mill owners, he should better resign from the post.”

Commenting on the issue, BJP spokesperson Golak Mohapatra said “This government has done nothing and has failed in all aspects. In the future, farmers will definitely bring a change in the State with their votes.”

Responding to the allegations, senior BJD leader Prasanna Acharya said, “Government is completely aware of the issues our farmers are facing. It is trying its best to find a solution in phases which will continue in the future as well.”