Stalemate continues in Odisha Assembly over paddy procurement issues

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(Eds: Adds details) Bhubaneswar, Feb 20 (PTI) Stalemate continued in the Odisha Assembly for the third consecutive day of the budget session on Saturday as the opposition BJP and the Congress created a ruckus in the House over alleged irregularities in the process of paddy procurement by the state government.

As soon as the House assembled for the Question Hour, the opposition members rushed to the well, demanding an announcement from the government that all paddy bags would be procured from farmers in the next seven days.

BJP MLAs shouted slogans against the state government, while a section of Congress legislators led by party whip Taraprasad Bahinipati attempted to climb the speaker's podium.

Speaker S N Patro requested the opposition members to return to their seats and participate in the proceedings.

Amid the agitation by the opposition legislators, the speaker asked Food Supplies, Consumer Welfare and Cooperation Minister R P Swain to make a statement on the procurement of paddy, as per the decision taken in the all-party meeting held on Friday.

The minister informed the House that the government will procure paddy till March 31, 2021.

He also said 55.03 lakh MT of paddy has so far been procured, up by 21 per cent from 45.61 lakh MT purchased last year.

The opposition members continued their agitation despite the minister's announcement that the government will receive paddy from farmers till March 31.

As Patro's request to members seeking their cooperation failed to yield any result, he adjourned the House twice, first during the pre-lunch session, and finally from 11.30 am to 4 pm.

When the House reassembled, scenes of chaos were witnessed again.

The House plunged into turmoil after Leader of Opposition and BJP MLA P K Naik, considered as a polite politician in the state, tore up a copy of the minister's statement and threw it to the speaker's podium.

The BJP members expressed their displeasure over the minister's statement and sought a discussion through a motion in the House.

Opposition whip and senior BJP leader Mohan Majhi said, 'We had demanded suspension of all businesses in the House and a discussion on the farmers' issues. The state government is not ready for it.' Congress member Bahinipati said the speaker has not accepted their notice for a discussion on the paddy procurement issues.

He requested the speaker with folded hands to ensure that paddy is procured paddy at various government-run 'mandis' (regulated markets) across the state. He also demanded an adjournment motion to debate the issue.

Patro said, 'The minister concerned today made his statement on the matter. Let's wait for seven days, after which he will be asked to present the facts.' The speaker convened an all-party meeting to resolve the stalemate, and it has been decided to hold a two-hour discussion on the paddy procurement issues in the House on February 22, immediately after the Question Hour, sources said.

Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Narasingha Mishra wrote a letter to the speaker, saying that he had not agreed to a proposal during an all-party meeting to ask the minister concerned to make a statement in the House on the paddy procurement issue.

'Yesterday, you announced in the House that during an all-party meeting held in your chamber, it was decided that the Food Supplies Minister will make a statement relating to paddy procurement. I protested immediately and said that I had not agreed to your proposal for directing the minister to make such a statement in the House,' Mishra said in the letter. PTI AAM BDC BDC