Shekhawat Ignores Charges

 Ignoring Odisha Government’s charges of “interference” in the state matters, Union Minister of State for Agriculture, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat said the Centre and the State Government should come together and mitigate the plight of farmers facing a grave crisis due to drought and pest attack. 

“Drought conditions prevail in 14 districts. The areas, known as the rice bowl of the state, are hit by drought-like situation and pest menace," said Mr.Shekhawat.
The Central Team arrived here in the state on a two-day visit to review the problems facing the farmers.

Terming farmers as "annadata" (food providers), the Union Minister  said this is not the time to indulge in blame game and find fault with each other. “It is call of the hour to hold the hand of the distressed farmers in order to give succor to them, he said.

The Minister, held a preliminary review meeting with state government officials here on crop loss caused by drought and pest attacks.

The Centre would also find ways and means of extending assistance and cooperation to the state government to enable it to deal with the farmers' woes, said Mr.Shekhawat.

The Director General of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) is scheduled to visit Ganjam district, where paddy crops have been severely hit due to pest attack, he said.

Replying to charges leveled by a section of the BJD leaders that his visit is an interference on state affairs, Mr.Shekhawat said: “It is the duty of the Centre to address the farmers issues and the visit of the central team is aimed at reviewing the situation and working together with the state to end peasants' miseries.

Meanwhile, the state government has urged the Union Minister to take steps for modifying guidelines and hike compensation by 50 per cent to affected farmers.

As the affected farmers are now getting compensation of Rs 6,800 per hectare in rain-fed areas, theUunion Minister was requested to raise the amount by at least 50 per cent, Special Relief Commissioner Bishnupada Sethi told Media.

Since the State is following Centre's guidelines, these can be changed by them, he said adding, even if the State wants to revive lift irrigation (LI) points to provide irrigation facilities to the farmers, it is not possible because there are no provisions for such mitigation in State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF).

The State has written to the Centre to give powers to repair and revive LI points during drought, Mr.Sethi said.

Principal Secretary Agriculture, Saurabh Garg said the central team was apprised about the situation in areas affected by pest attacks and steps taken to deal with the problem.

"We also told them about the package announced by the Chief Minister for the affected farmers," he said.

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