BARABATI (JAJPUR): Barabati, the largest vegetable mandi of the State, perches itself bang on the National Highway 16, about 75 km from the State Capital of Bhubaneswar.
A palpable air of indifference, though, rules the marketplace on Saturday morning with farmers and traders going through their motions as if untouched by the high voltage electioneering in the politically sensitive Jajpur district that goes to polls on Monday. There is also a buzz around poll boycott among the farmers, who have assembled from the vegetable growing belt, to sell their produce.
Ask, why? and the riposte comes quick with an “indifference for indifference”. Barabati is the sources of income for more than 30,000 farmers across around 500 villages under Rasulpur, Bari, Dharmasala, Jajpur, Badachana and Binjharpur blocks. The farmers in the region feed vegetable to at least 20 districts in the State besides supplying to Kolkata, Ranchi and Jamsedpur.
The mandi trades in hundreds of tonne of fresh produce daily. Hundreds of farmers and vendors gather at the mandi to sell and buy farm produce. At the same time it has become a symbol of all that is wrong with farmers in the State.
As the farmers reach with their produce, they are surrounded by middlemen who start auctioning on random prices put forth by buyers around them. There is no minimum fair price assurance and the farmers are often exploited in connivance with the traders.
“Sometimes we are forced to sell the vegetables at 60-70 per cent less than the actual retail price. But we have no option as there is no cold storage. Vegetable being a perishable commodity has to be sold in quick time,” said Kanhu Charan Das, from Fuladi village.
The complaints are not restricted to lack of market support and facilities, the neglect of the fundamental necessities of farmers like irrigation and minimum support price for vegetables by different political parties has put the sizeable section off.
“Come election, these become major poll issues but once the process is over everything is forgotten. We do not require any kind of support if we are provided proper irrigation facility and assured minimum support price for our produce,” said Siba Prasad Dehuri of Haridapal village under Rasulpur block.
Policies and schemes launched by the State and Centre for farmers are hardly reaching them. Though some farmers admitted to have received assistance under the recently implemented Kalia scheme, many complained of being deprived.
“We have been demanding a regulated vegetable mandi, high capacity cold storage, irrigation facilities and market linkage for farmers for the last few decades. But nobody is paying any heed. That’s why we have decided to boycott the poll. Politicians come to farmers once in five years but ignore them for the rest of the time,” said State convenor of Naba Nirman Krushak Sanghathan (NNKS) Nimai Charan
More than 500 farmers led by Ray were detained by the police on Saturday while trying to prevent polling parties to leave for their booth duty. The organisation that has been spearheading farmers’ movement in the State has appealed all farmers in the district not to cast their votes.
Assistant director (horticulture) Lokanath Jena admitted that the mandi lacks facilities and farmers are subjected to harassment but in the same vein accused the farmers of not taking benefits of Government schemes.
“We have 55 per cent subsidy under the Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH) scheme for mini cold storage of 30 tonne capacity which costs around `15 lakh and 80 pc subsidy on drip irrigation facility. But there are no takers”.
However, there is a proposal for a cold store of 5000 tonne capacity to be built under PPP mode at Barabati, he said.