Prices of pulses (dals) are on a rising trend again since the elections were over. Cost of arhar dal has swung up to Rs 95 a kg and, keeping pace with it, prices of other dals like green gram and white gram have gone up to Rs 90 each.
During the elections and even before that, the price of arhar dal was Rs 65 per kg. This price rise has made dal almost vanish from poor man’s dishes.
The worst casualty of this situation would be the midday meals in schools which are going to reopen after the summer holidays.
It is noteworthy that dal is the main component of the midday meal. The annual requirement of pulses in Odisha is around seven lakh tonnes and its production in the State is almost equal to the requirement.
But the problem is almost the entire production is exported to other States as there is lack of processing facilities in Odisha.
And the irony is while exporting raw pulses to outside States, import of processed dal is also made from the outside States to meet the requirement here, forcing the Government to spend crores of rupees on this count.
Admitting that there is lack of dal processing units in Odisha, the State Government had given emphasis on establishment of dal processing units in its 2013 Agricultural Policy.
The Government had provided in the policy that male entrepreneurs would be given 40 per cent rebate over investment on fixed assets of a unit excepting the cost of land. And the highest limit of this rebate was fixed at Rs 50 lakh.
Similarly, the policy also envisaged that women, SC and ST entrepreneurs and agriculture graduates would be allowed 50 per cent rebate up to a maximum limit of Rs 50 lakh.
The policy, then hailed as an attractive policy, practically fizzled out due to lack of interest on the part of the entrepreneurs on the one hand and on the other due to morbid follow-up action by concerned officials on the ground level.
This is why and how the people are paying the price for high-priced imported dal while their raw production is exported comparatively at a much lower rate.
While the Central Government is going to import four lakh tonnes of dal from abroad to contain the rising prices, the Odisha Government is expected to realize the situation and take steps to supply dal to the consumers at an affordable price through departmental retail outlets.
It is also expected that the Department of Agriculture would proactively pursue a move on setting up of dal processing units in the State.