By BS Reporter
The Congress which had paralysed the proceedings of the state assembly for five days, alleging neglect of the state government towards the plight of the farmers, cornered the government on Tuesday on distress sale of paddy by farmers.
After assembly speaker Pradeep Amat admitted an adjournment motion on distress sale of paddy, Opposition leader Bhupinder Singh alleged that farmers were forced to go for distress sale due to non-opening of mandis.
Joining the debate, senior Congress leader and Opposition chief whip Prasad Harichandan said, “While the MSP (minimum support price) of paddy is fixed at Rs 1,250 per quintal, the farmers are forced to sell it at Rs 800 per quintal. This is due to non-opening of mandis by the government.”
The Congress legislators also demanded a bonus of Rs 300 per quintal on paddy during the two-hour debate on the matter that witnessed their walkout after the reply of Pratap Keshari Deb, minister for food supplies and consumer welfare, failed to appease them.
Refuting the Opposition’s allegations, Deb said, “The state government has made adequate arrangements to facilitate sale of paddy by farmers at the mandis. The same arrangements have not been made in areas where farmers are yet to begin crop cutting.”
“While 1.37 million tonne of rice was procured in 2003-04, the figure has gone up to 2.89 million tonne in 2012-13,” Deb added.
The minister, however, ruled out announcement of bonus on paddy and termed the Opposition’s demand for the same as ‘political gimmick’.
“As the state is expecting a bumper produce this year, it is not possible on the part of the state government to announce any bonus. We fear that paddy from neighbouring states will enter Odisha if we announce a bonus,” he said.
Blaming the Centre for adopting a partisan attitude against paddy producing states, Deb said, “We had urged the Central government to raise MSP of paddy from Rs 1,250 per quintal to Rs 1,400 per quintal. However, the Centre rejected our demand and raised MSP of wheat. This is discrimination against paddy producing states.”