Orissa in Anarchy: Agriculture Department Has No Information on Chief Minister’s Year-Old Agro-Package!

Chief Minister Navin Patnaik , on 28th October’2009, had declared a package of relief and action plan for farmers in Orissa as Agriculture Production Commissioner R.N.Senapti’s report on farmers’ suicides hit the headlines.

The package included:

(1) Rs.1000 crore to be spent during next five years on Watershed development in tribal and drought –prone areas to improve 8 lakh hectare of land;
(2) Five lakh ponds at the rate of one lakh per year to come up on lands of small and marginal farmers in rain-fed areas;
(3) Compensation at the rate of Rs. 2,000 per hectare for non-irrigated land and Rs. 4000 a hectare for irrigated land will be provided to the farmers whose land suffered crop loss; and
(4) A sum of Rs. 300 crores to be spent to repair lift irrigation points and renovate minor irrigation projects.

Keeping it in view the above package declared by Chief Minister, RTI activist Pradip Pradhan submitted an application to the PIO, Dept. of Agriculture, seeking details of implementation of the same.

His queries were:

(1) How much fund was earmarked and spent on Watershed development in tribal areas and drought-prone areas from November’09 to July’10? (2) How much fund has already been allocated for creation of ponds in rain-fed areas and how many ponds have already been created and how many ponds are under construction till July’10? (3) How much fund has already been spent for compensation to the farmers whose land suffered crop loss up to July 10 and how many of them have already been compensated? (4) How much fund has been spent to repair lift irrigation points and renovate minor irrigation projects up to July10?

Response of PIO

After one month, the PIO on 16.9.10 responded to his application informing that “the information is under collection”. Till 6.10.10, Pradhan has not got a single information from the PIO, though around 50 days have passed.

Reaction of Pradhan

As per section 7(1) of RTI Act, the PIO is required to provide information within 30 days of receipt of the application. The PIO has violated the Act by not supplying the information within 30 days and bungling the same with uncertainty of collection.

If the CM had not bluffed, the package, specifically the components thereof like the amount earmarked for each of the items of construction/repair watershed projects, irrigation points and ponds etc must have been in the files of the agriculture department. The field offices like the district agriculture office, the block and Tahsil offices must have drawn and disbursed funds for compensation against crop loss to farmers and details thereof must have been in the department by way of their communication.

If the PIO of Agriculture department is not incorrect, Pradhan feels, Chief Minister Navin Patnaik had given a bluff in pronouncing a non-drawn package just to hoodwink the people when Senapati’s inquiry was unable to suppress the fact that farmers were committing suicide due to official negligence to agriculture in Orissa.

Should not the Government clarify its position?

GOVERNMENT CASTIGATED BY RULING PARTY HEAVYWEIGHT IN ORISSA ASSEMBLY

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Navin Patnaik led Government’s continuous negligence to the farmers forced his party heavyweight Pradip Maharathy on July 9 to cry out in the Assembly that if the administration does not change its modus operandi, agriculture may not remain the principal avocation of Orissa’s majority after 15 years.

Pointing out where does the government err, Maharathy said that Officers are not being made to appreciate the applicability of the State’s agriculture policy. To encourage use of tractors for agro purpose the government grants subsidy on records. But in reality officials grab the subsidy money in lieu of keeping their eyes closed to use of the tractors in non-agricultural works.

Agriculture officers, even the faculties of Agriculture University, who are duty bound to interact with cultivators and equip them with technical know-how for better productivity are not doing that and yet enjoying immunity, he roared.

Dwelling on how Orissa markets are occupied entirely with highly contaminated fish from Andhra, Maharathy alleged that kickbacks have become so essential in kick starting official action that an Andhra body has taken away 432 Acres of Kausalyaganga to the total detriment of Orissa interest.

Criticizing Navin’s last phase of administration for the folly in deploying village level agricultural workers from the Agriculture Department to the Pachayatiraj Department, Maharathy disapproved the arrangement and demanded immediate reversal thereof.

To him, the conduct of the government is anti-agriculture. When old age pension scheme is available for many, the government has not included therein the old agriculturists. On the other hand, poor farmers from whom the government had procured seeds are perishing in running from pillar to post to get their dues. The government has not yet paid Rs.18 crores due to the farmers against cost of seeds that the officials had collected from them, he pointed out.

In initiating debate on the debate on demand for agriculture Congress member Santos Singh Saluja had alleged that the department of agriculture looks like rudderless. It is a confused department manned and controlled by persons sans any commitment to agriculture and any understanding of affairs of cultivators. When electrical demand in Orissa is continuously rising, energy use in agriculture has been in continuous decline, he said, suggesting that due to lack of interest and commitment in official level, farmers are kept away from advance technology.

Amongst others, Leader of Opposition Bhupindar Singh and members Pravatranjan Biswal, Bhagirathi badajena, Devraj Mohanty, Niranjan Pradhan, Pratap Sarangi, Amar Satpathy etc expressed their views on justification of the demand.

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