H arvest ushers in happy times for farmers, but not in Odisha. Year after year, season after season, though the government claims it gives farmers due priority and implements a plethora of measures for them, the hands that feed the state continue to be at the receiving end, waiting, pleading and praying for a fair return on their fruits of labour.
As the harvesting season commences, farmers are faced with the now customary and agonising phase of paddy procurement by the government. The process, scheduled to start on November 15, is yet to take off due to various problems ranging from technical glitches, non-operationalisation of mandis (market yards) and, most importantly, a change in procurement modalities. Thousands of farmers are left in the lurch as they wait at mandis with their produce heaped in the open.
A major hindrance this year has been the introduction of the centralised online token system for farmers to sell their produce at designated mandis. Earlier, tokens were issued at the Primary Agriculture Cooperative Society (PACS) site, where the procurement takes place. After allegations of graft, with the localised token distribution system being misused, the government decided to centralise the process and issue tokens directly to farmers through SMS. But many farmers have not received these tokens and are unable to sell their produce. The mandis are in a state of paralysis. Discontentment is giving shape to agitation in many parts.
The intention of the government may be good but the absence of proper implementation has caused widespread suffering. After having toiled in their farms to ensure a good crop despite the vagaries of nature, farmers cannot be made to wait to sell their harvest smoothly. Delay in procurement exposes the produce to damage and reduction in quality as the paddy is heaped in the open due to lack of storage infrastructure in the market yards. With the government planning to procure 60 lakh tonnes of paddy this kharif season, the deficiencies should be ironed out immediately to alleviate the misery of farmers.