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Monsoon Session Begins On Stormy Note

Bhubaneswar: The monsoon session of Assembly began on Wednesday with a stormy note as Opposition BJP and Congress created ruckus in the House over prevailing drought like situation in the State.

The House assembled at 11 am. Following National Anthem, the House paid tribute to departed MLAs including former Minister Bijayshree Routray, Covid Warriors and Martyrs.

As soon as the Question Hour begins, Opposition Congress members rushed to the well of the House and disturbed the proceedings. They were demanding suspension of all business of the House to conduct a special discussion on the drought like situation.

As the Speaker SN Patro rejected their proposal, they disrupted the proceedings. In this scenario, the House was adjourned till 12.34 pm. Later, the Speaker has allowed discussion on an adjournment motion moved by the opposition on the same issue.

Following a hot debate on the issue, the House again witnessed uproar in the post-lunch session too as the opposition members raised questions on reply made by Agriculture Minister Arun Kumar Sahoo. They asked why the Agriculture Minister replied to the House instead of Revenue Minister, who is in-charge of the concerned department.

BJP Chief Whip Mohan Majhi said the government has failed to create sufficient irrigation facility for the farmers and blaming the nature to cover-up its own failure.

“The State government, a very long ago, had promised to provide irrigation facility for at least 35 per cent land in each block. Is the government still able to achieve it?” he asked.

Mr.Majhi demanded immediate declaration of drought to the affected areas and formation of a task force to prepare a long term action plan to mitigate possible drought in near future.

Terming both State government and Centre are anti-farmers, Congress legislature party leader Narasingha Mishra said, at least 27 out of 30 districts of Odisha have been affected by severe drought. Therefore, all these districts should be declared as drought-hit as per norms, he said.

“The government is not giving any emphasis to the irrigation sector. The irrigation projects, which were started by the then Congress government, has not been completed till now. The Centre is responsible for this as it has not provided fund for the project,” Mr.Mishra said.   

The Congress leader demanded waive off of all crop loans and free seeds, fertilizers & pests for the farmers.   

In his reply, the Agriculture Minister said, a drought or drought-like situation is a natural disaster, it is not man-made, it occurs due to climate change. The State has witnessed drought eight times in past 20 years, he said.

Mr.Sahoo informed the House that till August 28, as many as 23 districts of the State have received deficient rainfall. As many as 15 blocks of 11 districts have received scanty rainfall (less than 59%) as per field-level reports condition of the crop is worse than normal in 47 blocks in 14 districts, Mr.Sahoo stated.

In view the drought-like situation, he said directions have been issued for preparing Contingency Crop Plan, repair & operationalize lift irrigation points, distribution of pump sets at subsidized prices and take up digging of more farm ponds through MGNREGS in the affected areas.

Mr.Sahoo stated that it was due to the timely steps taken by the Government, the farming community has been equipped to tackle the possible drought situation arising due to scanty rainfall.

He said that the Government has always stood by with the farmers in the past and shall continue to do so in the future. The Minister assured the House that the Government is committed to the holistic development of the farming community and is taking appropriate measures. Dissatisfied with minister’s reply, both opposition parties staged walk out from the House.

In view of Covid-19, the Chief Minister, Leader of Opposition, Ministers and few MLAs have seated in different locations. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik attended the House proceedings through video conferencing from his residential office Naveen Niwas.

Leader of opposition Pradipta Kumar Naik, who has been undergoing treatment for post-Covid complications, joined the session through video conferencing from AIIMS, Bhubaneswar Guest House.

Even though he is unable to speak clearly, Mr.Naik participated in motion moved by the chief minister to pay obituary references to departed MLAs, Covid warriors and martyrs.

“I haven’t recovered fully but my priority will always be to sincerely carry out the responsibilities people have bestowed upon me. I will attend the Assembly session virtually from the hospital and draw the attention of the Odisha government towards all issues of the public,” the BJP leader tweeted.

The House commenced the monsoon session with strict adherence to Covid guidelines, as the police imposed prohibitory orders surrounding the Assembly premises.