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Farmers’ distress is still very much on politicians’ minds throughout Odisha election season

Election season appears to have brought the parties’ attention to the extremely “marginalized” farmers in Odisha, where agricultural output continues to be the major source of revenue.

 

It is important to remember that around 75% of the people living in the State work as farmers, with paddy being the main crop farmed there.

Ahead of the second round of the simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly votes, candidates are exerting extreme heat and humidity to garner support in the last moments of the campaign. The majority of voters are from the agricultural community, and they are being promised the moon, with politicians consistently bringing up the issue of farmers’ distress.

Despite the State government’s claims that the agrarian sector has significantly improved with a separate budget for agriculture and cash incentives for farmers under the Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (KALIA) scheme, Odisha’s farming communities are among the poorest in the nation in terms of monthly income.

When it comes to monthly income, the agricultural people of Odisha are among the lowest in the nation. In Odisha, the income of a farmer household has risen by a pitiful 2.73 percent in 2019 over 2013. According to a National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) study, farmers in Jharkhand earn the lowest average monthly income in the nation, Rs 4,895, while farmers in Odisha earn the second lowest average monthly income in the country, Rs 5,112.

The bulk of farmers in the coastal state, who suffer the most from crop loss and the distressed selling of their agricultural products, are unimpressed with the newfound care that political parties have shown for rural communities.

Despite the depressing NSSO data, the governing BJD, which ruled the State for 24 years, claimed in the electoral platform to have quadrupled farmers’ earnings.

Odisha is the only state in the nation where farmer earnings have quadrupled, according to the BJD platform for 2024. Over the next ten years, Odisha will remain the state with the highest rate of increase in farmers’ income in the nation.

The whole agricultural ecosystem—including contemporary technology-driven extension services, agricultural markets, and increased crop yield to empower farmers—was the emphasis of the BJD manifesto-2024. The regional party pledged to help farmers continuously via the KALIA Yojana, provide interest-free loans up to Rs 1.5 lakh, provide free energy for irrigation pumps, and expand the coverage of almost universal crop insurance.

In contrast, the BJP said in its platform that if it wins power in Odisha, it would provide farmers with free energy and pay Rs 3,100 for every quintal of paddy.

In its platform, the Congress pledged to expand the irrigation system, eliminate farmer debts, and provide cold storage facilities for agricultural products.

Election season is upon us. Our votes have a significant impact on politicians’ decisions, therefore they keep us in mind. Five years pass and we are blissfully forgotten. Nobody cares to make our situation better. The agricultural lands at the end are not reached by the canal’s water. There is no cold storage system in place. “We frequently do not receive the minimum support price of the total produced paddy,” said Arakhita BIswal, a marginal farmer from Bharatpur village in the Kendrapara district who farms an acre of farmland.

The BJD administration offers financial support of Rs 2,000 per year under the KALIA program to small and marginal farmers, sharecroppers, landless agricultural laborers, and distressed farmers. In a same vein, small and marginal farmers may get Rs 6,000 year under the Central initiative (PM-Kisan). However, the struggling farmers believe that “the amount is too meagre to compensate for the rising cost of agriculture activity.”

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