Farmers’ plight took the centre stage in the coming Padmapur byelection as Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik Naveen Patnaik on Tuesday announced input assistance of about ₹200 crore for the drought-affected areas of the State. This comes a day after BJP candidate Pradip Purohit withdrew from filing his nomination papers citing unfulfilled farmers’ demands.
The entire expenditure for input assistance would be borne by the State government, Mr. Patnaik said. The byelection for Padmapur Assembly in Bargarh district would be held on December 5. It was necessitated following death of Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MLA Bijay Singh Bariha.
While the BJP has nominated Pradip Purohit as its candidate, the ruling BJD chose Barsha Bariha, elder daughter of the late Bariha. The Congress proposed name Satya Bhushan Sahu as its candidate.
According to the Chief Minister’s Office, about 2,63,560 hectares of crop land in 64 blocks and 15 Urban Local Bodies of 12 districts have suffered crop loss of 33% and above. “So far, many of the affected farmers have not yet received their crop insurance dues despite continuous follow-up and pursuance by the State government with the technical advisory committee under the Union Ministry of Agriculture of Farmers Welfare,” Mr. Patnaik pointed out.
In this context, considering the gravity of the situation, demands of the affected farmers and crop loss reports by the Collectors, the Chief Minister decided to provide assistance out of the State’s own resources, the CMO informed.
The Collectors of the affected districts have been directed to submit the requirement of funds to Special Relief Commissioner and appropriate steps would be taken for immediate disbursement of assistance. It is estimated that about ₹200 crore would be disbursed to overcome the distress of the farmers.
The announcement came soon after Union Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare Minister Narendra Singh Tomar tweeted, “I had a discussion with Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan today regarding the insurance claim being given in Jharbandha, Padampur, Paikmal blocks of Bargarh district of Orissa.”
“A decision in this regard has been given by the Technical Advisory Committee constituted under the Government of India and instructions have been given to the insurance companies concerned and the State government to issue claims with immediate effect,” Mr. Tomar said.
In the run-up to the Padmapur byelection, the BJD had raised the issue of non-payment of crop insurance to famers in a big way. The BJD had said the insurance scheme is named after Pradhan Mantri Phasal Bima Yojna, hence responsibilities lay with the Central government. Despite Mr. Patnaik taking up the crop insurance with Centre, lakhs of farmers were deprived of the compensation, the BJD said.
Mr. Pradhan on Monday had held discussions with protesting farmers. “Our party is aware of farmers’ issues. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced to take panchayat as unit in crop insurance from Bargarh in 2016. Due to inefficiency of State government, farmers have to hit the streets. Implementation of crop insurance is the responsibility of State government which appoints agencies for this. When there are public sector insurance companies to look after insurance, what was the need for the Odisha CM to include a private insurance company,” he asked.
Sasmit Patra, BJD Rajya Sabha member, reacted to Mr. Tomar’s Tweet, saying, “It is clear now from your tweet that the pending Fasal Bima of farmers of Bargarh and especially Padmapur were pending all this while with Centre and now you are asking insurance companies to pay.”
“You are aware that payment is cleared by Centre and insurance companies pay, State does not have any role. It would have been better if the Centre had taken this decision earlier. Thousands of farmers of Bargarh and Padmapur would not have had to suffer for so long. Also please clear all pending Fasal Bima claims for all farmers of Odisha and not only Padmapur. They are also suffering for long,” Mr. Patra retorted.