CUTTACK In Cuttack district, home to Food Supplies and Consumers Welfare Minister Ranendra Pratap Swain, farmers’ anger over irregularities in kharif paddy procurement has been spilling onto the roads.Thousands of paddy growers have been left in the lurch allegedly due to unholy nexus between the civil supply officials and the millers. Procurement ended on March 31 and farmers are now resorting to distress sale.
According to official reports, a whopping 15,728 farmers of Cuttack district have been deprived of selling their paddy after procurement ended. Around 66,535 farmers of 14 blocks across the district had registered online to sell their paddy.
Accordingly, the Cuttack administration had set a target to procure 13 lakh quintal paddy through 225 paddy procurement centres including 204 mandis set up at different primary agriculture cooperative societies (PACS) operating in 14 blocks across the district. However, the district administration could procure 15.22 lakh quintal paddy from 50,912 farmers.
Interestingly, the administration had engaged millers from Bargarh to lift paddy from Cuttack. They just bought five percent of the target, leaving the officials red-faced.In 2021, 62,393 farmers had registered at the societies for sale of kharif paddy but 11,748 of them could not sell their stock. Nine millers had procured 16.45 lakh quintal paddy.
Irate farmers of Nischintakoili block on Wednesday blocked the Cuttack-Chandbali State highway at Panaspadia Gandhi Chhak for five hours demanding procurement of their unsold paddy under the minimum support price (MSP) fixed by the government. Due to gross negligence and irregularities on the part of Baliapada Cooperative Service Society officials, 58 farmers could not sell 1,308 quintal paddy this time, they alleged.
Although their iris scanning was carried out during registration for procurement and tokens provided to them with date and timing for paddy sale, the farmers said they did not get a chance to sell their stock. They alleged that the society officials in connivance with local millers delayed the procurement so that they will be forced to sell paddy below the MSP.Prior to this, farmers of Salepur and Narasinghpur blocks too had staged agitation over the same issue.
“If such irregularities exist in the home district of Minister for Food Supplies Ranedra Pratap Swain, one can only think about the plight of farmers in other parts of Odisha,” said a disgruntled farmer. Additional Civil Supply Officer Gyanendra Mishra said seven millers from Bargarh district were engaged for procurement of current year’s kharif paddy.
“After procuring 65,000 quintal paddy, the seven millers refused to purchase paddy on the ground that paddy was of poor quality. We then deployed another eight millers from Cuttack who lifted the rest 14,57,212 quintal paddy by March 31,” he said.
Farmers have blamed lack of coordination among Civil Supply, Cooperation department and millers. “Why were millers from another district engaged for procurement in Cuttack in the first place,’’ they asked.