Bhubaneswar: With the political atmosphere over farmer issues getting charged up in the state with every passing day, questions are being raised on the ruling Biju Janata Dal’s (BJD’s) seriousness about the whole issue.
The ruling party claims the state government has been giving top priority on farmers what with a separate budget being prepared for the state’s farm sector and a separate Agri Cabinet having been formed to take policy decisions on agriculture and farmer issues. The party also claims that it has doubled the income of farmers in a decade. Besides, the Naveen Patnaik government had also launched several schemes like free mobile phones, crop loans at 1 per cent interest and health insurance coverage to woo the farmer community in the state.
However, these measures by themselves may not be sufficient to please farmers here, especially when they are in distress and in a protest path to fulfil their demands. The reported delays in paddy procurement and the alleged irregularities in procurement process at mandis are hurting farmers. The BJD government has also been a butt of criticism for its non-acceptance of farmer suicides in the state.
Similarly, the government is yet to recognise the sharecroppers who account for about 80 per cent of the total farmers’ community in the state. Though the government had assured to bring in a legislation to provide all kinds of benefits to sharecroppers some two years ago, it is yet to be fulfilled.
Besides, the BJD government has neither completed a major irrigation project for the farmers in its 18 years of rule nor has it fulfilled its promise given in 2009 to provide irrigation facility to at least 35 per cent of the farm land. The regional outfit is also yet to fulfil its 2014 poll promise to create irrigation facility for additional 10 lakh hectares of arable land.
The debate for farm loan waiver is doing the round in political circles of Odisha for over a year now. Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh waived farm loans Monday while BJP-ruled Assam waived farm loans Tuesday.
Further, the Congress government in Chhattisgarh Tuesday announced a hike in the minimum support price (MSP) of paddy from Rs 1750 to Rs 2500 per quintal. BJD’s move to stage protests in New Delhi to blame the Centre for not raising the paddy MSP will be a cold comfort for farmers here, especially when agriculture is a state subject and there is no bar on the state government to raise the MSP in form of a bonus.
In this circumstances, the regional party has fewer choices than making a big bang announcement like farm loan waiver or a steep raise in the bonus of paddy. Anything less than this may not please the farmers.
BJD spokesperson Pratap Keshari Deb said the state government is fully aware of the issues of farmers and for that it has constituted an inter-ministerial committee headed by finance minister Sashi Bhusan Behera to look after the problems of farmers in the state. The government will definitely come out with a solution for this.
“A Rs 72,000 crore loan waiver for farmers had been done in 2008-09 during the UPA regime. Did it fully solve the problems of farmers? No. Hence, more important is the MSP given to farmers. Particularly, the MSP of Rs 2,930. Our government is trying hard to get it implemented, said BJD’s Sasmit Patra.
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