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Farmers Need Joint Efforts

Bhubaneswar: It is a regular phenomenon in Odisha for the farmers to hit the streets like annual major festivals like Ratha Jatra. The cultivators used to stage agitation over issues which remain unsolved for decades and like the previous Congress regime, the BJD dispensation headed by Naveen Patnaik also encountered the same problem. No government, be it Congress, BJP or the BJD, has put their mind to solve the farmers’ issue, rather while in opposition tried their best to take political mileage out of the farmers’ distress. The farmers in Odisha commit suicide, face problems in getting water for irrigation, fail to procure required fertiliser at the proper time for the cultivation, encounter power crisis for lift irrigation points and are unable to sell their produces with the proper Minimum Support Price.

While Naveen Patnaik’s KALIA scheme earned accolades from across the country, Narendra Modi’s Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana and Kissan Nidhi also got praise from different sectors. However, the farmers still agitate on streets and they do it every year. What exactly do the farmers want? Their needs and requirements are limited. The main requirement is just water for irrigation, inputs including fertiliser supply at proper time and lifting of their paddy at the proper MSP. Addressing these three issues will certainly reduce the farmers’ plight to a great extent. But, that is not done. All want to take mileage so that the parties capture farmers’ votes, which constitute about 70 per cent of the population.

It is said that everything turns gold if touched by Naveen Patnaik, be it natural calamity management, supplying oxygen for needy COVID-19 patients across the country or sponsoring the Indian Hockey teams. But, the farmers in Naveen’s state stage agitations and struggle to get a drop of water for irrigation and a grain of fertiliser for cultivation. It is another matter that the state government often rejected the allegations that the farmers are denied proper MSP, but the fact remains that a quintal of paddy is sold at much lower price in Odisha.

The debt burdened farmers continue to commit suicide. Interestingly, Naveen in a recent letter to the Centre has expressed apprehensions that acute shortage of fertiliser may lead to law and order situation in the state. This is enough to understand the mental state of farmers.

The farmers of Odisha have been experiencing recurring natural shocks in the state. This has adversely affected the economy of farmers and also the entire rural economy of Odisha. However, there is no such effort to bail the farmers out of the crisis they are facing. Odisha presently has PPL and IFFCO where fertiliser is being manufactured. The age-old Talcher Fertiliser plant has been closed.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of the 2019 general elections on 22 September, 2018 laid foundation stone for a Rs 13,000 crore-project to revive the Talcher fertiliser plant and exuded confidence that it will begin production in the stipulated 36 months. “They have told me production will start in 36 months. I assure you that I will come again after 36 months here with you. I will inaugurate this project,” Modi said at a function organised to mark the commencement of work on the project.  The plant will produce 1.27 million tonnes of neem-coated urea — a crop nutrient. The project would also generate employment for about 4,500 people.

Of Modi’s 36 months deadline, 35 months have already passed and there is no sign of the plant at the proposed site. Nobody also can say for sure whether the Talcher Fertiliser Plant could start production in the next 36 months. Interestingly while blaming the Centre over inadequate supply of fertiliser, the BJD leaders clearly forgot to mention the Talcher Fertiliser Plant. Even Odisha’s prominent leader Srikant Jena was Union Minister for Fertiliser and Chemicals in the past. He also preferred to remain silent to attempt to address the fertiliser crisis being faced by farmers for a long time.

There should be no doubt that the Telcher Fertiliser Plant which will produce urea could reduce Odisha farmers’ problems to a great extent. But it requires united efforts and push from all the political parties comprising BJD, Congress and BJP for setting up more fertiliser plants in the state.    

Fertiliser use is one instrument implemented as a means of raising agriculture production and yield.

The State also witnessed a rising trend for use of fertiliser.  In 2019-20 fertiliser of 72.8 kg/ha was used in Odisha. The balanced use of fertiliser (NPK use ratio) is the key to better crop production and maintaining soil health. Against an ideal NPK use ratio of 4:2:1, the State’s NPK use ratio was 4.7:2.4:1 in 2018-19 and 4.9:2.2:1 in 2019-20, that is close to ideal 2:5:4

Use of pesticides is also important and they protect crops from pests, diseases and weeds as well as raising productivity per hectare. The use of pesticides in the State was 144 gmai/ha in 2013-14 and it increased to 146 gmai/ha in 2017-18, 161 gmai/ha in 2018-19 and 160 gmai/ha in 2019-20.

Odisha Economic Survey 2020-21 said during 2019-20, the food grains production in the state reached record level of 115.71 lakh MT registering growth of about 20% over 2018-19. Similarly rice production also increased by 25% and vegetables by 10% during the same period. The Irrigation Potential Created (IPC) during 2019-20 is 43.07 lakh hectares and 19.51 lakh hectares in Kharif and Rabi seasons respectively. The Kharif season IPC increased by 3% over 2018-19 whereas the IPC of Rabi season remained almost the same.

However, rainfall plays a vital role in agricultural production and productivity. The normal rainfall in Odisha is around 1,451.2mm with about 75-80 percent of the rainfall being recorded between mid-June and end-September (Kharif season).

What is important is that both the State and Union Government to work in tandem to sort out the issues of farmers in a more constructive way rather than blaming each other for their woes. This is not going to solve their problems as it is continuing and farmers are at the receiving end, while political leaders are trying to gain political mileage out of it.