Hundreds of farmers stacked their paddy produce on major roads in various parts of Western Odisha on Saturday, demanding the withdrawal of the centralised token system for procurement of the crop in the state-run market yards.
Farmers, under the banner of the Paschim Odisha Krushak Sangathan Samanway Samiti (POKSSS), demanded the procurement of paddy from across the region on the basis of the harvest report, submitted by the agriculture department of the districts concerned.
POKSSS convenor Lingaraj said the paddy procurement system should be decentralised.
The government has decided to procure 19 quintals of paddy per acre of irrigated land and 13 quintals of rain-fed fields. But the decision has been taken in Bhubaneswar.
“This should be taken at the district level. In a decentralised procurement system, the Primary Agricultural Cooperative Societies (PACS) play a pivotal role and generate tokens for selling of the crop in the market yard. But the tokens are being generated from Bhubaneswar,” he alleged.
Bargarh sub-divisional police officer Deepak Kumar Gochhayat said the paddy growers blocked the National Highway- 53 at Attabira for more than five hours.
“As the people faced severe difficulties, we were forced to take around 40 farmers into custody to clear the road,” he said.
In Sambalpur, the farmers parked their paddy-laden vehicles at Sindurpankh on NH-53, protesting against the “faulty” procurement system and refused to discuss with the district officials.
However, police detained at least 15 farmers there to clear the road in the evening.
Farmers in Deogarh, Jharsuguda, Sonepur and Balangir districts also took out rallies and held sit-ins to protest against the centralised procurement system.
Food supplies and consumer welfare minister R P Swain said that some groups with vested interests have been agitating in the name of farmers to disturb the procurement process.
He said senior officers of the department have been posted in each district to oversee the process and ensure transparency in the system.
“Had the farmers raised the issue at the district level procurement committee (DLPC), the government would have considered their demand. More than 56 per cent paddy has already been procured in 16 districts. It is not possible to revise the decision now,” the minister added.