Intensifying their protest over paddy procurement, BJP leaders continued their overnight dharna in front of a police station in western Odisha district of Sambalpur even as the Naveen Patnaik government suspended officials from at least 15 agricultural cooperative societies over alleged irregularities.
BJP activists, led by state unit president Samir Mohanty, leader of Opposition Pradipta Naik, Bargarh MP Suresh Pujari and many other leaders, assembled on the premises of the Sambalpur Town police station and continued to stage a dharna for the whole night, while braving the chilly winter to protest against the shoddy affairs in paddy procurement by the State government.
“Till the government buys the entire paddy lying at the mandis, we would not budge from our protest,” said BJP leader Jaynarayan Mishra, who, too, joined the protest at Sambalpur. “We are determined to fight for the farmers,” said Mishra. Former MLA from Padmapur and BJP leader Pradip Purohit said they are prepared to spend seven nights protesting for farmers.
On Thursday, at least 10,000 farmers and BJP leaders had surrounded the RDC office in Sambalpur town, protesting ‘katani chhatani’ or deductions in farmers’ payments by rice millers alleging poor quality of paddy, non compliance to the FAQ fixed for paddy procurement, non-generation of token in time for farmers, lapsing of token and unnecessary laying of paddy bags at different market yards.
The BJP leaders alleged that the government’s ‘failure’ in buying paddy from the farmers had resulted in the distress sale of the grain, with farmers in districts like Keonjhar being forced to sell the crop at around ₹1200 per quintal against the MSP of ₹1868 per quintal.
Facing political heat over the issue, Odisha food supplies and cooperative minister Ranendra Pratap Swain on Thursday suspended 15 secretaries of primary agriculture cooperative societies that act as agents of Odisha State Civil Supplies Corporation and purchase from the farmers. The department suspended secretaries of primary agriculture cooperative societies in western Odisha districts of Bargarh, Sambalpur, Bolangir, Boudh and northern Odisha district of Keonjhar.
BJD leader Srimoyee Mishra said BJP was resorting to such agitation to divert attention from the farmers’ agitation in Delhi. “This Kharif marketing season, a record 37 lakh metric tonne of paddy have been procured by the government. The government would procure all paddy from farmers,” she said.