Koraput, Dec 20:
Paddy procurement in the state this season is in a complete mess causing anger and severe resentment among the farmers who are at the receiving end of the government created mess. Tempers reached a flashpoint on Friday as hundreds of farmers gheraoed the district collector’s office here alleging irregularities at the paddy procurement centres.
The farmers staged a demonstration Friday and shouted slogans against the unholy nexus between the officers and the millers while demanding transfer of the local civil supplies officer. They alleged that the mandis lacked basic facilities like threshing yard, water, rest shed, loading and unloading arrangements.
Agitated farmers, who also gheraoed the employees of the Koraput Central Cooperative Bank, sought an explanation from them as to why they sided with the millers. They told them that if they needed bribes, they were ready to offer it and asked them to nothing less than the Rs 1,310 per quintal minimum support price (MSP) citing Fair Average Quality (FAQ) norms. “Under no circumstances are we going to part with ten kilograms of paddy per quintal on the pretext of FAQ norms”, said farmers.
Farmers threatened to take to the streets if the government failed to take early action for procurement of paddy from the mandis in the district.
ADM Ekadasi Jena, after holding discussions with the agitated farmers, accepted a memorandum from the farmers addressed to the chief minister.
Reports said about 1.5 lakh tonnes of paddy has been lying in the 10 mandis in Jeypore subdivision alone in the district for the last one week. Farmers alleged that not a single kilogram of paddy has been procured from these mandis.
Despite a bumper crop in the district this year, millers were not procuring paddy and were demanding an extra 10 kg of paddy per quintal citing poor quality and FAQ norms due to their unholy nexus with supply department officials, said sources.
A similar situation prevailed in Sonepur district with regard to procurement of paddy. More than 25 farmers of Bisimunda and Malikmunda panchayats spent sleepless nights under the wintry sky guarding their 1,800 bags of paddy at the Bisimunda primary agriculture cooperative society (PACS) mandi waiting for the miller to procure their produce.
Mounting pressure from the farmers to procure paddy not conforming to FAQ norms has put the state government in a fix.
The state has been waiting for nearly two weeks now to get the FAQ specification on the quality of paddy relaxed by the Union ministry of Agriculture Food Processing to extend its benefit to the farmers affected by untimely rains and floods.
Rice not conforming to the FAQ norms will not be accepted by the Food Corporation of India (FCI) for delivery under the public distribution system (PDS). The procured rice has to be consumed within the state without any subsidy support from the Centre, said sources in the Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare department
The Centre has fixed Rs 1,310 per quintal for common variety of paddy and Rs 1,345 per quintal for Grade-A variety as MSP.