The Telegraph
Saturday , May 3 , 2014
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Due: SIM cards, participation fee

Farmers still at mercy of traders

Bhubaneswar, May 2: Daitari Dehury, 53, of Kumarsingha village in Angul district still depends on the mercy of local traders to sell his agricultural produces as he lacks information on market price.

Dehury is one of the 18,000 mobile phone beneficiaries, who are yet to get any information on agricultural produces’ market price and weather.

Though the state observed Farmer’s Day (Akshay Tritiya) today, the plight of 55 lakh farmers still persists as they are yet to get any benefit from the free mobile phone scheme, which was launched to disseminate information on agriculture related activities and market rate of various produces to the farmers.

Chief minister Naveen Patnaik launched the free mobile scheme for farmers in June last year. On the inaugural day, the government had distributed mobile sets to 5,000 farmers. So far, nearly 18,000 handsets have been distributed to the farmers. To send the information, the government has to register the farmers’ mobile phones with the regional agricultural marketing society. A SIM card, in which all agriculture related activities would be stored, was also to be given to them.

Odisha has 55 lakh agricultural families.

Launching the programme, Naveen had said that the scheme would help the farmers get right price for their produces by obtaining information on price in various areas. But, it has not happened.

Dehury said: “Last year, I went to Bhubaneswar to receive the mobile set from the chief minister. We had been assured that a SIM card would be given to us in which all information on various agricultural produces and market information would be there. But, that did not happen. However, my family members are using the cell phone by installing another SIM in it.”

Dehury, who earns Rs 50,000 per annum, cultivates groundnuts, paddy, arhar and mung. “I have to sell all my produces to the local businessmen here,” quipped Dehury.

Others like Dehury are also victims of distress sale of various agricultural produces. Similar is the case with Sudam Charan Bauri, 34, of Soro Block in Balasore district.

“I don’t know when I will get the agriculture SIM card,” he said. Bauri’s income is also confined to Rs 60,000 per annum. The story is no different elsewhere in the state, including Naveen’s home turf Hinjili in Ganjam district.

According to the arrangement, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) was supposed to send free voice messages related to market prices of agricultural produce, fertilisers, weather condition and other required information supplied by the government to enable them to give a thrust to the productivity. Kanpur IIT is giving technical support to it. A sum of Rs 42 lakh has also been earmarked to send SMS to the farmers.

But, as the government failed to register the names of the farmers with the BSNL, the information is not reaching them.

Only a handful of farmers are getting the information.

Director of agriculture R.S. Gopalan said: “I will check with my allied departments whether the farmers have got the SIM cards.”

Co-operation secretary Bishnupad Sethi said: “The SIM cards have not yet been given. But, there are farmers, who have not got the mobile phones from the government, but registered their names with it. They are getting the information.”

Sources said the state government was planning to ask all the regional agricultural marketing society to fan out to the villages and register the farmers’ names.

Now, only 25,000 of 55 lakh farmer families are getting the messages, an official said.