BHUBANESWAR: The Opposition on Friday came down heavily on the State Government in the Assembly for delay in payment of crop insurance to farmers affected by the last year’s drought and demanded that the crop loss should be re-assessed.
Initiating the discussion on the supplementary demand for grants of Cooperation Department, Leader of Opposition Narasingh Mishra said joint verification by Revenue, Agriculture and Planning and Coordination Departments had put the crop loss at 75 to 80 per cent. But, the extent of crop loss was brought down after re-assessment.
Mishra demanded that the percentage of crop loss should be re-assessed as the Government is unaware of the agency or department that had conducted the reassessment. He said there should be a fresh inquiry or joint assessment of crop loss for Balangir district.
Alleging that cooperative institutions in the State have become a den of corruption, Mishra said machines to convert non-FAQ paddy to FAQ paddy is not available in any cooperative societies. Though millers are not supposed to be present and purchase paddy in societies, they are doing so, he said and alleged that the mismanagement is leading to distress sale of paddy. Mill owners in collusion with cooperative society officials are looting the farmers, he said.
Stating that it is the responsibility of Food Corporation of India (FCI) to purchase paddy from farmers under the Act, Mishra said cooperative societies have also expressed their willingness to purchase paddy as FCI agents.
In his reply to the debate, Cooperation Minister Damodar Rout did not touch these points and said equipment for conversion of non-FAQ paddy to FAQ paddy have been provided to societies as required. He said of 55 lakh agricultural families in the State, 85 per cent is small and marginal farmers. However, he said though he had proposed that sharecroppers should be given their legitimate rights, steps are yet to be taken.
The Minister admitted that payment of crop insurance to farmers has been delayed because of differences in assessment of crop loss by various agencies. It also took three months for the Cooperation Department to verify the entire matter, he said and added that it was also delayed at the Central level.
Rout indirectly criticised the demonetisation move of the Centre and said it will affect the rabi crop. Though the farmers have been given loan and the amount is in their accounts, they cannot withdraw because of shortage of cash. Alleging that banks have become non-functional in rural areas, Rout said 55,000 farmers are returning from banks daily without getting cash.