Farmers' strike affects normal life in Odisha: Public transport not plying; 200 held, including 70 from Bhubaneshwar

Bhubaneswar: Normal life across Odisha was affected Thursday due to a dawn-to-dusk strike called by leading farmers' body Navnirman Krushak Sangathan (NNKS) to protest against the state government's alleged lack of concern towards their demands.

Though the strike — backed by both the Congress and the BJP — continued peacefully, the police picked up about 200 protesters from different parts of the state, including 70 from Bhubaneshwar. There is heavy deployment in different places to maintain law and order, a police official said.

Farmers strike affects normal life in Odisha: Public transport not plying; 200 held, including 70 from Bhubaneshwar

NNKS members being detained by police personnel during a demonstration protest 'Odisha Bandh, in Bhubaneswar. PTI

Holding placards and raising anti-government slogans, agitating farmers blocked roads in the city as well on the national highways, prompting police to undertake preventive arrest of the farmers. "We have made elaborate security arrangements to maintain law and order in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack," Commissioner of Police Satyajit Mohanty told reporters.

About 30 platoons of armed police have been deployed in Bhubaneswar and 15 in Cuttack, he added. Mohanty, however, claimed normal life in the twin cities of Bhubaneswar and Cuttack remained unaffected.

Government offices continued to function with adequate attendance, but educational institutions, major shops and business establishments remained closed and public transport vehicles were off the roads. The situation in Ganjam, Bhadrak, Jagatsinghpur, Kandhamal and Koraput districts remained by and large peaceful.

NNKS leader Akshya Kumar alleged that the state government did not pay any heed to their demands of price, pension and prestige to cultivators, forcing them to call for the strike. He said farmers in the state are also pressing for social security allowance of Rs 5,000 per month.

Even as the farmers staged their stir, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik addressed a function, marking the distribution of financial assistance under the KALIA scheme for the farming community, in the western Odisha town of Bargarh. "Though some people are observing bandh today, no one can stop the KALIA scheme," he said.

Despite the state's two main opposition parties, the Congress and the BJP supporting the strike, their workers and leaders were not seen among the agitators.

Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) chief Niranjan Patnaik, in a Twitter post, said, "Our 'annadatas' (providers of food) have suffered a lot due to the anti-farmer policies of the BJD and the BJP. Odisha Congress supports the bandh called by the farmers."

Odisha Agriculture and Finance Minister S B Behera, however, termed the agitation as "unfortunate".

"It is unfortunate that the NNKS observed the strike despite repeated appeal from the government. The timing is very wrong as it is being observed a day before the annual high school examinations

"The strike has put mental pressure on the students. It's even more saddening that two national political parties the BJP and the Congress have extended their support to the bandh," Behera said.

The authorities of Utkal University and Shree Jagannath Sanskrit University said they have postponed examinations scheduled for Thursday.

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Updated Date: Feb 21, 2019 17:59:03 IST

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