Terming the special assistance announced on paddy by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik as too small, the Opposition Congress demanded that the amount be enhanced to `300 per quintal.
The State Government announced a special calamity assistance of `100 per quintal of kharif paddy on December 26 following agitation by a farmer’s organisation demanding a bonus of `500 per quintal.
The farmers need to be compensated adequately as they have lost their crops to cyclone Phailin and subsequent floods, Leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh told this paper after visiting several western Odisha districts.
“The special assistance announced by the Government is too small compared to the loss sustained by the farmers. The Congress demands a bonus of `300 per quintal with retrospective effect from 2009,” Singh said.
Alleging distress sale of paddy in different parts of Bargarh, Balangir and Kalahandi districts, Singh said farmers are forced to sell their produce to private traders as they are made to wait for long by Government agencies procuring paddy.
Singh, who visited several market yards of Regulated Market Committees (RMCs) in the three districts, said lack of infrastructure and manpower has put the farmers in distress as they have to wait for several days to sell their paddy.
Farmers also resented the restriction imposed on the quantum of paddy for procurement from individuals. Since token system has been introduced, farmers on the queue have to wait till their turn comes.
As the RMC market yards do not have weighing bridges, manual weighing of paddy takes a lot of time. Since daily procurement target of each market yard has been fixed, the farmers have to wait for long.
Singh criticised the State Government for the infrastructure inadequacy in the market yards despite the fact that RMCs are financially sound with surplus liquidity. According to a rough estimate, the RMCs have a cash of `300-350 crore a their disposal.
Admitting that paddy procurement was sluggish at the beginning due to a host of factors beyond the control of the department, Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare Secretary M S Padhi, after returning from his tour to Balangir and Kalahandi, said procurement has started to pick up.
The Chief Minister, who announced the special calamity assistance to the farmers at a public meeting in Bargarh district on Saturday, also said that the State Government will exempt 2 per cent each on market fee and Central Sales Tax (CST) for the benefit of farmers.
Singh further demanded that a bonus of ` 300 should be paid to farmers till the end of the current kharif marketing season.