Congress comes out with white paper on Odisha drought situation

Bhubaneswar: Holding the ruling BJD government responsible for rising farmers’ suicide in Odisha, the Congress on Friday brought out a white paper on the drought condition and claimed 111 peasants including two women have so far ended their lives due to the state government’s inaction, neglect and apathy.

The white paper also asked the BJD government to convene an all-party meeting for tackling farmers issues, waive farm loans, Rs 20 lakh assistance to affected farmers per acre and Rs ten lakh each to families of deceased peasants.

“While the state is facing a severe drought, the government has adopted an anti-farmer approach. As a result, at least 111 farmers were forced to commit suicide so far,” Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee president Prasad Harichandan said while releasing the white paper here.

Coming down heavily on the Naveen Patnaik government for worsening miseries of the farmers, the white paper said though the state government had targeted to provide Rs 5,500 crore cooperative loans to farmers during Kharif, only Rs 436 crore loans were made available.

As small and marginal farmers as well as share croppers were deprived of getting loans from these agencies, they were forced to take loan from money-lenders at very high rate of interest, it said, adding crop failure and inability to repay loan were prime reasons of suicide by farmers.

The white paper, released in the presence of AICC General Secretary B K Hariprasad, said unfortunately the BJD government, instead of bringing succour to the distressed farmers, did not hesitate to mock at peasants who committed suicide due to crop loss and debt burden in the last three months.

Stating that farmers’ suicide had scripted a dark chapter in Odisha’s history, the PCC chief quoting the white paper said “the state government, which is still in deep slumber, is fully responsible for this. Farmers are ending their lives because of its negligence and apathy.”

Slamming the Naveen government for evading Congress demand for publication of a white paper on drought situation and farmers’ suicide, Harichandan said as the state government decided not to bring out such a document which would have exposed its failure, his party had to do it.

Claiming that earnings from agriculture in the state had dwindled due to the BJD regime’s directionless farm policy, the white paper said a few years ago agriculture contributed 70 per cent of the GSDP, which has now nosedived to 12.33 per cent due to lack of proper policy and steps to promote the sector.

Noting that 72 per cent of farmers in Odisha are small and marginal farmers, it said though the Meteorological department had predicted deficient rainfall this time long ago, the state government failed to adopt appropriate water management strategies to face the drought.

Stating that farmers continued to commit suicide even after announcement of a drought package by the state government as it was of no use, Harichandan said instead of sympathising with the deceased farmers’ families, the ruling BJD made fun of the farming community by holding a rally at Sohela in drought-hit Bargarh district.