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Farmers march to Bhubaneswar over pension demand, suicides; section 144 imposed

The NNKS said it will withdraw the march to Bhubaneswar only if the government, by 11 am Monday, announces a Farmer Welfare Fund with a corpus.

Statesman News Service | Bhubaneswar |

Odisha government clamped prohibitory orders under section 144 CrPC on the national highway leading to the state capital preventing farmers who are on a march from different parts of coastal Odisha to the state capital.

Sensing trouble, the police administration across coastal districts had been put on alert and asked to keep a tab on activists of the Naba Nirman Krushak Sangathan which is organising the farmers’ protest.

Taking cue from Maharashtra and the Delhi march, the NNKSS led by Akshya Kumar had given a call to farmers to reach Bhubaneswar on 5 November for a mass satyagraha demanding MSP as per production cost, pension to farmers and prestige in terms of admitting farmers suicide due to loan burden and crop loss rather than dubbing such cases of suicide due to other reasons.

Over the last two days, the police at the district level have been trying to foil the proposed march and rounding up farmers who were preparing to join the satyagraha.

Today, the administration imposed Section 144 CrPC on the NH and prevented farmers from walking towards Bhubaneswar at – Tamando and Phulnakhara on the outsiders of the state capital.

In an attempt to negotiate, state Finance Minister Sashi Bhusan Behera rushed to Phulnakhara late at night and discussed with Akshya Kumar.

Behera said a ministerial committee will be constituted to examine their demands.

But the NNKS rejected it saying similar promises had been made earlier during the last four years.

The NNKS said it will withdraw the march to Bhubaneswar only if the government, by 11 am Monday, announces a Farmer Welfare Fund with a corpus. “Create a fund and then we will discuss modalities on how pension and price of produce can be worked out to avail money from the corpus,” said NNKS.

Earlier on Sunday opposition, political party leaders made a beeline to Tamando and Phulnakhara to grab the limelight.

While the BJP leaders rushed to lend support, even a high flying leader like former MP Baijayanta Panda who had never, over the last four years associated himself with the NNKS or any other struggle reached the spot to join hands with Akshya.

Panda denounced the Naveen Patnaik government for trying to throttle the voice of farmers

He pointed out that promises made by the state government with regards to 35 per cent irrigation in all blocks, chain of cold storages etc have not been met.

Both the centre and state need to pay heed to the demands of farmers, he added.

BJP leader Samir Mohanty too criticised the BJD government of failing the farmers and referred to increasing number of farmer suicides in Odisha.

The ruling BJD spokesperson Samir Das hit back at the BJP and central government on issues and challenges faced by farmers across the country.

The BJP leaders and the like of Baijayant Panda should think about Maharashtra and other states before talking on farmers issues, he remarked.

It is pertinent to note here that Mr Soumya Ranjan Patnaik who was part of the NNKS has joined the ruling BJD. He was leading the farmer agitation prior to joining the BJD and securing a Rajya Sabha nomination less than a year ago.

The police said it had imposed Sec 144 to ensure free flow of traffic on the NH leading to the state capital.