Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Feb 12:
The Congress took to the streets on the issue of distress sale of paddy by farmers in Odisha holding an impressive rally at the Lower PMG Square here today.
Hundreds of farmers, mainly from the undivided Koraput district, once considered the fortress of the Congress, staged a massive demonstration with paddy stacked up on the streets a la mandis in a symbolic act to draw attention to the plight of farmers, who are forced to distress sell their produce due to problems in paddy procurement.
For once, the state Congress, a divided house at the best of times, put up an impressive show of unity with leaders of all major factions participating in the rally. While PCC president Prasad Harichandan led the rally, former PCC chiefs Niranjan Patnaik and Jayadev Jena, senior party leaders Sitakanta Mohapatra and Chandrasekhar Sahu, MLAs Taraprasad Bahinipati, Chiranjeeb Biswal and Naba Das and former Congress MP from Nabarangpur Pradeep Majhi and several other senior leaders participated in the demonstration.
Police took former Majhi and several Congressmen from undivided Koraput district into preventive custody when they tried to break the police cordon.
PCC chief Prasad Harichandan said farmers in the state were in a distressed state as they were unable to sell their paddy despite harvesting a bumper crop.
“This is the beginning; farmers are organizing themselves against the anti farmer policies of the state government. These farmers had come from the undivided district of Koraput. More such demonstrations will follow in the future. Paddy is lying unsold in mandis and threshing floors as it is not being procured by government agencies. In such a situation, farmers are being forced to distress sell their paddy to unscrupulous middlemen from outside states,” he said.
Speaking to the media, Majhi sounded a warning to thegovernment saying; “Despite harvesting a bumper crop in the four districts of Koraput, Nabarangpur, Malkangiri and Rayagada, farmers are unable to sell their produce. This government will be responsible if any farmer is unable to sell his produce and commits suicide.”
“Farmers in Nabarangpur district have harvested a record 21 lakh quintals of paddy, but the government agencies in the district have procured only 10 lakh quintals from the farmers so far. The rest is lying in the threshing yards or mandis forcing them into distress sale. The situation is no different in other districts. If the Naveen Patnaik led government fails to procure paddy from farmers we will be forced to intensify our agitation,” he said.
“The condition of farmers in the state is miserable. We are chalking out a plan and would hold a meeting at the state level to intensify our agitation,” said former minister and senior Congress leader from Ganjam Chandrasekhar Sahu.
“The farmers from Koraput had come with their paddy to give it to Naveen Babu since they are unable to sell it as government agencies are not procuring. The Congress will organize more such agitations in the state,” said Jayadev Jena former PCC president.
Jagatsinghpur MLA Chiranjeeb Biswal, who had also participated in the demonstration, said the Congress had given a notice for an adjournment motion on the issue and it was being discussed in the House.