Pest Defeats State

1 November, 2017 is certainly an important date for the Odisha government as the day witnessed a lot of activities. The State government started paddy procurement for the Karif season and the Department of Agriculture and Farmers’ Empowerment suddenly woke up from slumber and issued a notification on pest management.

 
Interestingly, the Department of Agriculture issued notification No-VII-GI-o2/2017-1392 Agri/PP notifying the price of the need-based inputs, which include pesticides for 2017-18, suggesting district authorities to manage the pest menace on the day the Department of Food Supply and Consumer Welfare started paddy procurement.
 
How will the notification of the Department of Agriculture save the crop when farmers have already harvested their grains and are ready to sell them at different market yards? This notification should have been issued months ago. Interestingly, on November 1, Department of Agriculture asked the Collectors to tackle pest attack on Kharif crops.
 
By the time notification and orders were issued to deal with the pests menace, they have already destroyed over 1.28 lakh hectares of paddy. Union Agriculture Minister Radhamohan claims that Central Rice Research Institute (CRRI) had warned the State government about the pest menace in the first week of October.
 
The Union Minister also alleged that the State government ignored the warning and the consequences are now being felt with farmers setting fire on the crop field or committing suicide.
 
Odisha’s most experienced Agriculture minister Damodar Rout, who often claims to be a man rooted in the soil, also failed to recognize pest attack as a major problem till pests had damaged over 3 lakh acres of paddy. Instead of taking moral responsibility for the pest attack, Dr.Rout is busy making political statements.
 
Dr.Rout, though known as an able administrator, this time could not handle the callous officials and failed to manage the pest attack.
 
Naveen Patnaik, on the other hand, claims that his government has been giving priority to agriculture and therefore, has changed the name of the Department of Agriculture to the Department of Agriculture and Farmers’ Empowerment. The State has a separate budget for Agriculture and a Cabinet for Agriculture. Still farmers continue to suffer as they had suffered before the BJD government came to power.
 
Has Dr.Rout ever thought why his department failed to manage pest attack which led to damage of paddy crop in over 1.28 lakh hectare of land? Why did the department fail to act at the proper time and what the Kissan Cell was doing all along? When calamities like Phailin and Hudhud could be properly managed, why not the pests?
 
It is said that Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik was not at all worried over the activities of the Agriculture Department as it was in the hands of Rout, an experienced person. But Dr.Rout himself says that he has not been informed by the department about the pest attack till everything was finished.
 
Besides burning of crop fields, at least seven farmers have committed suicide due to pest attack in the span of a fortnight. Who should be responsible for the situation? Are not the Babus of the Agriculture department responsible for what has happened?
 
The officers concerned should be made accountable for the mess or will they escape like the jawans who killed innocent people at Gumudumaha village of Kandhamal district?
 
Unless the government makes the officials accountable for the sad situations, they will continue to harm the interest of hapless people.
 
This time round strong action needs to be taken against the officials who have landed the entire State in trouble. The State which earned praise for managing cyclones and floods is getting defeated by insects. Is it not a shame for the State government which failed to tackle the pests?
 
The Agriculture department, in fact, woke from the slumber when farmers, out of frustration, started setting their crop field on fire. Reports have been received from at least 10 districts where hapless farmers have torched their paddy field. This is not all; Brunda Sahu, a farmer from Bargarh district, has also committed suicide by consuming poison in his field a day after setting his crop field on fire. Sahu took this extreme step on November 1. 
 
Though Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in several meetings claims that his government has been successful in managing calamities like cyclones (Phailin in 2013 and Hudhud in 2014), droughts and floods, the pest like Yellow Stem Borer, cut worm, leaf folder/case worm, BPH (Brown Plant Hopper)  and others defeated the State government by affecting crop over 1,28,318.945 hectare of agricultural land.  
 
Bargarh district is said to be the worst affected by pest attack followed by Bolangir. Bargarh is the place which is considered the rice bowl of Odisha, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had addressed the farmers separately and AICC Vice President Rahul Gandhi participated in a farmers’ padayatra. This Bargarh is now in focus as four of the seven farmers who committed suicide due to pest attack are from the district.
 
This is for the first time in the State that farmers set their paddy field on fire. Just by creating Agriculture Cabinet or a separate budget for agriculture will not solve the problem of farmers. It appears that the government is engaged in facing the challenge politically instead of doing solid ground work.

Kharif-2017 has been a curse for the farmers in the State as they have been hit by drought due to inadequate rainfall followed by pest attack. They may soon face another challenge from rains during the harvesting time.
 
It is a fact that nature is not kind to the farmers of Odisha; but it is expected from Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to be kind and considerate towards people, who are continuing to support him for the last 17 years. 
 
 


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