Bhubaneswar, Jan. 18: Suicide by cotton farmers today forced chief minister Naveen Patnaik to constitute a high-level committee to look into the problems faced by 5 lakh cotton growers and suggest remedial measures.
The committee, headed by agriculture production commissioner R.N. Bohidar, would submit its report to the government within a week, official sources said. The panel would study problems related to supply of seeds, finance, technical knowhow, crop insurance and marketing.
Crop coverage under cotton has gone up from last year’s 48,171 hectares to 50,657 hectares this fiscal. But production has come down to 1.88 lakh quintals from last year’s 2.39 lakh quintals due to rain.
Cotton cultivation is being taken up in the districts of Rayagada, Bolangir, Kalahandi, Gajapati, Ganjam, Boudh, Nuapara, Koraput, Angul and Dhenkanal. Farmers of Nowrangpur switched to maize cultivation as they did not find cotton lucrative.
Thousands of cotton growers, facing problems with marketing, have been forced to sell their produce to agents of private traders from neighbouring Andhra Pradesh at throwaway rates this year.
Against this backdrop, a number of suicide cases by cotton farmers have been reported from across the state.
Alu Seshadri, a cotton farmer of Rayagada district, committed suicide in November last year by consuming poison after realising that he would not be able to repay a loan of Rs 10,000.
Barely two weeks before that, Gangaram Nag, a 22-year-old cotton farmer of Bolangir, ended his life allegedly due to crop failure.
Today, cotton farmers of Muniguda in Rayagada threatened to immolate themselves if the government did not initiate steps to facilitate purchase of their produce.
District collector J.V. Sharma rushed to Muniguda and announced that a cotton purchase centre would be opened there.
Chairman of the Cotton Growers’ Federation (Cotfed) Murari Mishra said “the cotton farmers would be forced to commit suicide if their problems, especially those related to marketing, were not addressed immediately”. He urged the chief minister to provide Rs 5 crore for revival of the sick enterprise.
It was decided that the panel would explore the possibilities of reviving Cotfed.