Despite a reply from Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare Minister Ranendra Pratap Swain in the State Assembly on Monday, the Opposition seemed to be in no mood to relent on the issue of corruption in paddy procurement in mandis.
Given the standoff over the issue that continued since the beginning of the ongoing Budget Session, an all-party meeting called by the Speaker had been held on Saturday. While both the Congress and BJP members took on the State Government on the alleged corruption in mandis, the ruling BJD members charged the Union Government for delay in releasing pending dues and the financial loss incurred by the State due to revision of the Central provisions.
The BJD and the Congress attacked the BJP-led Union Government for allegedly running away from its primary responsibility and alleged that the BJP in the State was adopting double standards on the farmers’ issues.
BJD member Pratap Deb said millers were not State Government's agents. They belong to the Central Government, he said and questioned why despite bumper crop productions, the FCI was not purchasing paddy.
Deb further added that the Central Government was yet to release Rs 7,348 crore to the State towards paddy procurement. The State Government will purchase paddy from all farmers listed. That's why the State has borrowed Rs 10,000 crore, Deb told. Congress Legislature Party Leader Narasingha Mishra, while accusing the Union Government of dilly-dallying on farmers’ issues, alleged that the State Government was responsible for large scale corruption in paddy procurement.
It is the primary duty of the FCI which comes under the Union Government to purchase paddy, Mishra told. BJP legislator from Sambalpur Jayanarayan Mishra questioned as to why the State Government was not allowing the district level Procurement Committees to function properly. He demanded to scrap the token system.
If at all the Government wants to continue the system, let the Primary Agricultural Cooperative Societies (PACSs) be given the responsibility, Mishra demanded. He further added that while the millers have the task of custom milling, they are acting as main conduits in the irregularities committed in mandis. Mishra alleged that everybody has a share of 12 kg cut in every quintal of paddy during procurement.
Similarly, Opposition Chief Whip Mohan Majhi (BJP) expressed his dissatisfaction over the Minister's answer. Majhi said that Odisha had failed to take benefit of MSP fixed by the Centre. If this trend continues, there will be more and more suicide cases by the famers, he told.
Majhi further pointed out that while the Union Government had sanctioned Rs 13,000 crore to the State Government for paddy procurement, the State Government had spent only Rs 10, 000 crore. He demanded specific answer from the Government as to the rest Rs 3,000 crore. Others who took part in the discussion included Mukesh Mahalingam, Suresh Routray, Debesh Acharya, Tara Prasad Bahinipati, Bishnu Sethi, Nauri Nayak, Priti Ranjan Ghadei, Santosh Singh Saluja and Kishore Mohanty.
Keeping his replies, Minister Swain assured the House that Government would purchase paddy from farmers but not from traders who were acting like farmers.
Targeting the BJP for its double standards, Swain said that while farmers in the country were protesting against the Centre's new farm policies, why the BJP was silent on MSP policy. Last year, the FCI had only purchased 17 lakh MT rice out of 28 lakh MT.
Up to February 21, the Government has purchased 55.97 lakh MT paddy while last year it was 46.36 lakh MT, Minister Swain told.