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'Orissa has only one power centre - Naveen Power Centre' - Dr Damodar Rout
"Dr Damodar Rout has been accommodated in the Naveen Patnaik ministry this time too, he has not been lucky enough to get his favourite portfolio. But he has taken this in his stride, claiming that he is ready to face new challenges in the changed portfolios."
Subrat Swain : August 19, 2009
Dr Rout: Who says that Agriculture and Co-operatives portfolios are less important than others? It is true that I enjoyed substantial popularity as Panchayati Raj minister, nevertheless the Agriculture department is more important than the Panchayati Raj (portfolio). The CM has a special agenda in mind and that’s why I have been entrusted with these portfolios.
HNF: So, what is the special agenda of the chief minister, this time?
Dr Rout: As you know, the industries are growing at a rapid pace in Orissa these days. The state is attracting massive investments. But this is also likely to create a chasm in the state because not every individual or group will benefit from this development. Just as one group will benefit from industrial growth by getting jobs or entering into businesses, there will in all likelihood be another group which won’t get any benefits from this process. This, in turn, will create the sense of injustice in their minds. So keeping this possibility in mind, the state government has decided to enhance the economic status of farmer. Orissa is agricultural state and majority of the farmers in the state are small farmers. For this reason, the CM has entrusted me with agriculture department, along with co-operatives. I think, it has a vital role to play in building a better Orissa.
>>> Scroll down to read rest of the Interview
HNF: What are the key challenges before you after getting the berth of agriculture?
Dr Rout: Let me clarify first, we are a paddy- surplus state in India. In current year, we have 9 lakh tonnes of surplus rice. But at the same time Orissa is suffering due to insufficient production and supply of Dal (pulses), fish and vegetables. We are always dependent on procurement of these from neighbouring state. So along with the paddy cultivation, we are giving priority now to produces more fish, dal and vegetable. We want to balance the supply of paddy on one hand and that of dal and vegetables on other hand. Now we are encouraging farmers to garden farming. Because as far as geological and environmental aspects are concerned, Orissa is the best place for garden farming.
HNF: The ruling party members criticised Central government on fertilisers issue. But you didn’t share their views on this matter. Is there a difference of opinion between party members on this issue?
Dr Rout: Did I praise the central government? I only said that we have sufficient quantity of fertilisers to fulfil our needs at present and we are only trying to get 1 Lakh tonnes of surplus fertilisers from central government. We have not been harassed by the Central govt. till date so right now we have no reason to blame them over this issue.
HNF: Union Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, during his visit to Orissa, advised people to prepare Basmati rice rather than boiled rice. Why didn’t you react at that time?
Dr Rout: Exactly. What he said is fact. We produce more boiled rice than non-boiled rice. Whereas other states produce non-boiled rice to suit their consumption pattern. Therefore , if we want to sell our rice we have to produce more non-boiled rice.
HNF: Some critics say, that paddy is under-priced in the state because practically there are no takers for it due to Naveen Patnaik government’s 2 rupees/kg rice scheme. What do you have to say on this?
Dr Rout: I don’t think there is any relation between paddy being underpriced and the state government’s rice supply scheme. But we are examining the situation and I have given order to co-operative societies and agencies to collect paddy from farmer.
HNF: Most farmers are poor in Orissa. What steps have been taken by the govt. to improve their condition?
Dr Rout: We are emphasising upon loans. We have a better understanding of the financial condition of the farmers in Orissa. If we give low-interest loans to farmers, it will help them produce more paddy.
HNF: After getting the agriculture portfolio, how you will tackle the POSCO problem?
Dr Rout: Though, POSCO project area is not covered in my new assembly constituency, but this area falls in my native place Erasama. I think there is no problem whatsoever. Some people, influenced by outside forces, are opposed to the project. But Naveen govt. is still trying to resolve the issue amicably.
HNF: There are two power centres in Jagatsinghpur district. Comment.
Dr Rout: I think there is only one power centre in orissa, that is Naveen power centre. There is no meaning of any other power centre.
HNF: Some analysts believed that you won’t get party ticket during elections because of the serious differences you earlier had with BJD’s chief strategist Pyarimohan Moha-patra. What will you say ?
Dr Rout: Quite frankly, there were no problems between us till now, nor would there be any in the future. In a political party, there is bound to be difference of opinion with your colleagues but we never allowed them to degenerate into heartburn(manantar). Both Pyari babu and myself are working hard for BJD.