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Pradhan urges Centre to assess crop damage due to pest attack in State


 Even as the State government on Monday announced a slew of measures to provide relief to farmers who lost their crops due to pest attack, Union Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan today urged the Centre to send a fact-finding team to the affected areas to take stock of the situation.

In a letter to Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh, Pradhan stated that crops in 1.8 lakh hectares of land in as many as nine districts of the State have been damaged by pest infestation. “A large number of farmers in the affected districts are in distress while some of them have set fire to their standing crops and a few have also committed suicide in distress”, he said.

The Union Minister stated though bulk of the responsibility lies on the Odisha government as protection against pests and prevention of plant disease is a State subject under 7th schedule of the Constitution, the government’s poor response to the situation has aggravated the matter.

In his letter, Pradhan stated that the situation has spiraled out of proportion due to delay on part of the State government in supply of subsidized pesticides to the farmers. “The government has also done too little and too late and by the time pesticides were used, the pests had already attacked the crops and destroyed them resulting in the crisis,” Pradhan wrote. Apart from the pest attack, the farmers of the State are also reeling under drought condition in 15 districts, he stated.

Farmers seek hike in compensation

BHUBANESWAR: A farmers' association here has sought a hike in compensation from the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) and urged the peasants to refrain from committing suicide or torching paddy fields due to crop loss.

The representatives of All India Kishan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, an apex body of seven Left and two independent associations in the state, met chief minister Naveen Patnaik last night, urging him to request the Centre for a revision in the NDRF compensation rates for farmers hit by natural calamities.

"We have drawn attention of the chief minister to the fact that compensation doled out for crop loss owing to drought and pest attack is inadequate. While a farmer spends Rs 20,000 for cultivating paddy over one acre land, he gets only Rs 2,720 as compensation under NDRF. This must be revised," said Suresh Panigrahi of Odisha Krushak Sabha (OKS).

Panigrahi argued that the compensation rate for farmers has remained unchanged for several years even as the price of raw materials increased manifold.

Stating that the farmers should be given adequate compensation to make up for their losses, the AIKSCC appealed to the peasants not to take any drastic step or set fire to their fields.

"We demand Rs 20 lakh ex-gratia for the family members of farmers who have committed suicide and land for those who have no homes," said Asish Kanungo of All India Kishan Sabha.

The AIKSCC also sought a farm loan waiver and interest-free loans for all farmers in Odisha.

"The association wants the government to hold awareness campaigns across the state to prevent farmers from torching their crops or committing suicide," Panigrahi added. 

EDITOR : Bijoy Ketan Mishra
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