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It's raining sops: Odisha govt distrtibutes mobile phones among farmers
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik Tuesday distributed 5, 000 mobile phone handsets among farmers in the state. While launching the Digital Mandi scheme, Patnaik said that his government will distribute 20,000 phones among farmers, which will enable the latter to know market trends.

Digital Mandi Scheme helps the farmers to stay updated with the latest price of agricultural commodities. All the states and UTs are connected with this system by a website, www.agmarknet.nic.in. Here, anyone can know the product price and deposits in the nearby markets on the particular day.

Odisha is a part of it. Nearly 36 major Mandis including Aiginia, Saheed Naga, Dumduma of Bhubaneswar have been included in this project. Now the government will bring this information to the hands of the farmers through these mobile phones, says Bishnupada Sethy, Secretary Agriculture and Animal Husbandry.

For this, the government will tie up with the IIM Kanpur and major mobile service provider BSNL. As there is a practice of availing this kind of services in six Indian languages through a dedicated interactive speech recognition system, the farmers will have this service in Odisha very soon. But for this service the farmers have to register their own mobile numbers as the government is not providing any SIM cards for this purpose.

Patnaik said 2013 was a year of farmers’ benefits. Rs 680 crore have been distributed as crop insurance in the year 2012-13. 50 lakh farmer families are being included in the health insurance scheme. The government is keen towards development of storage system of crops. For this, primary agriculture societies are in the process of upgradation. They’ll be provided an amount of Rs. 213 crore for developing store houses of 4lakh MT capacity.

Similarly, the government has planned to open new godowns at block level. Nearly 150 godowns will be made shortly with an expenditure of Rs. 60 crore.

Through this scheme, the farmers will not only get information related to the market but they can also avail information on weather, very soon, Patnaik added.

The opposition Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) separately described this move as “political’, and said it was an attempt to win the heart of the farming community ahead of the 2014 general elections. “It is a political move,” senior BJP leader Surama Padhi said.

“The chief minister distributed the cell phones keeping an eye on the upcoming election. Those who got the cellphones are mostly workers of the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD),” state Congress president Jayadeb Jena told reporters.

The state's rural development and cooperation minister Bikram Keshari Arukh refuted the allegation and said the distribution of cell phones has nothing to do with politics. "It will empower the farming community," and the government had decided it much earlier. A provision has been made in the budget in relation to this, he said.

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