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Odisha needs to sign MoU with its farmers

 

Monday June 09, 2014

Odisha, Agriculture, Farmer, Green Revolution  
 

"After a six days tour and Padyatra (foot rally) across the western Odisha, as part of the Parivartan Yatra (campaign for Change), Niranjan Patnaik, the President of Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee, discovered that farmers of Odisha have suffered the most during the 12 years’ rule of Naveen Patnaik."  

Niranjan Patnaik

 
 

Green revolution and the success of the cooperative movement have empowered the peasantry in many parts of India. Odisha has seen no green revolution and the cooperative movement remains rather weak. 70 % of the state’s population depends on agriculture. Most of the land holdings are either small or medium. In the absence of proper land reform and consolidation, many are share-croppers and farm workers. There are very few rich farmers in Odisha, may be their total number will be a few thousands. Poverty and the problem of agriculture, thus, go hand in hand. The entire country has been talking about an elusive second green-revolution. Can India become rich without the agrarian scene in states like Odisha improving? What has the state Government done in the last 12 years to improve the lot of the farmers? How can poverty be alleviated without the agrarian scene in the state improving?

 

As per the State Government’s Economic Survey (2011-12) in 2000/2001 the total cultivable land was 58 lakh 29 thousand hectares. By 2010-11 the total cultivable land had reduced 7 % and had become 54 lakh 7 thousand hectares.

The yield per hectare in Punjab is 41.48 quintal. In Odisha, the yield per hectare is less than one-third of Punjab at 13.93 quintal and below the national average of.

Punjab has 97.70 % of land irrigated. In Odisha, the official estimate is 36.70 %. But, during the padyatra farmers showed us the pathetic condition of canals and the large number of dysfunctional tube-wells.

In terms of use of farm inputs like HYV seeds, fertilizer and pesticides Odisha is much below the national average and remains almost at the bottom. Despite receiving huge subsidies from the Central Government the sell and distribution of farm inputs remain uncertain and there are frequent reports of squandering of funds and mismanagement.

With climate change the frequency of vagaries of nature like delayed monsoon, draught conditions, non-seasonal rain and flooding have been increasing. Elephant menace has become an equally big problem. Farmers are reporting crop loss from 50 to 100% almost every year. They are able to get a small amount of money as compensation for crop loss after a lot of running around.

Farmers are not getting remunerative price for their produce because of poor marketing linkage and procurement infrastructure as the state Government continues to deny distress sell.

Farmers are unwilling to avail any credit because of the uncertainties around agriculture. A civil society group, led by a former Judge of the Odisha High Court, has now documented 27 cases of farmer’s suicides. The State Government continues to deny all cases of farmer’s suicide.

The State Government has done nothing to support agro-based and food-processing industry that could have provided better market linkage for farm produce.

Naveen Pattnaik has signed many MoUs with big business. The farmers neither speak in English, the only language that the Chief Minister understands, nor can they provide donations for any favours to the politico-bureaucratic cabal ruling over the state. I have committed to the people that we will first sign an MoU with the farmers of Odisha. We have to usher in a green revolution and I am sure that the Central Government that has provided about 30 thousand Crore in some 18 different schemes to the state Government during the last 12 years will open its coffers if we can project the scope of a green revolution that can liberate farmers, 70 % of the state’s 4.19 Crore population, from a desperate existence close to the statistical poverty-line. The four agro-climatic zone will require different focus. But, the success of cultivation of corn in Umarkote, Cotton in Gunpur, and Sugar Cane in some pockets have shown the huge potential of agricultural growth. We have taken on board the following demands on the basis of discussions with farmers:

Ensure remunerative price for farm produce by strengthening the procurement infrastructure and market linkage.

Provide bonus of Rs 300 on top of the minimum support price of 1257 fixed by the Central Government.

Comprehensive insurance coverage and payment of compensation for crop damage within seven days at remunerative values. The procedure should be simplified to prevent harassment.

Payment of 20 lakhs as ex-gratia and provision of a job under the state Government in case of farmer-suicide due to distress because of either crop-loss or indebtedness.

Loan-waiver and loan rescheduling in case of crop loss.

Make sure that Soil-test Centres are established at accessible distance and results are given free of cost within seven days of submission of soil samples. The test results should be handed over with specific advice regarding the choice of crops.

Establish more cold-storage and encourage Government and private sector investment in providing market linkage and cold chains.

Revive the canals and the tube-wells and make sure that the target date for irrigating 35 % of the land in every block is met without any further delay.

Take up large irrigation projects like lower Suktel, Anga and lower Indra. Increase the percentage of irrigated land to 75 % in ten years.

Reserve water in the existing reservoir for use by farmers. Industries may set up reservoir at their own cost for getting water.

Set up an Agricultural University in Western Odisha and strengthen the Agriculture department to guide farmers to much higher levels of productivity through the use of the best farm inputs and the best choice of crops.

Improve animal husbandry and allied activities.

Naveen Pattnaik wants to recover 70,000 Crore from Mining houses once the favours that he has shown during the last decade has become public. But, the total revenue loss is now being estimated to the tune of 3 lakh Crore. So much could have been done for the farmers with all these lost/ looted money. The neglect of the agriculture sector is a critical issue related to poverty-alleviation and the overall economic growth of the country. India’s urban elite should show due compassion for farmers while forming views on the performance of Naveen Pattnaik during the last 12 years. We cannot become a rich state or nation while Odisha’s farmers remain poor.

[Author is a former minister of Odisha and, at present, is the Pradesh Congress Committee President, Odisha. Views expressed in the piece are his personal.]

 
 

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