Controversy as senior bureaucrat in Orissa shifted

December 19th, 2008 - 5:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhubaneswar, Dec 19 (IANS) The shifting of a senior bureaucrat in Orissa this week from heading a milk farmers cooperative to a post where he has no work has kicked up controversy with dairy farmers protesting against the move.The state government Dec 16 transferred Hrusikesh Panda from the post of chairman and chief managing director of Orissa Milk Producers’ Federation ltd (OMFED) and posted him as officer on special duty in the general administration department.

Panda has often been at the centre of a storm for his struggle against corruption and standing up to politicians since he joined the Indian Administrative Service in 1979 after topping the entrance examination.

The latest transfer is just like the other 27 times he has been shifted during his career. However, thousands of dairy farmers in the state fear their interests will now be sacrificed.

As milk federation chairman, Panda increased the milk price Nov 1 by Rs.4 a litre - a move that he claimed was intended to benefit the federation’s half a million members who were finding it difficult to make ends meet due to the rising prices of food items in the last one year.

However, the decision was opposed by the government, which the same day asked Panda to withdraw the hike, and set up a panel to examine if a hike in milk prices was really required and if so, to determine the amount. The panel was to submit its report by Nov 28.

As the panel did not submit a report by the deadline, the OMFED’s programming committee, which is authorised to fix prices, decided to go ahead with the hike. Panda, who chairs the committee, announced Dec 14 that OMFED will increase the price of the milk from Rs.20 to Rs.24 per litre from Dec 21.

The government transferred Panda after he made the announcement. However, his removal was protested by dairy farmers, who said the milk federation had stagnated for a decade, with procurement about 100,000 litres a day until 2003 when he took over.

In the next five years, Panda increased the procurement four fold, reaching out all over the state. Even in insurgency-affected areas, the milk cooperatives have been running to the satisfaction of the farmers.

After the roll back of prices in November 2008, procurement has halved and is currently 250,000 litres only.

“We are shocked that Panda was transferred,” Rukmini Dang, a milk producer from Bargarh, told IANS.

“This is a deliberate attempt by the government acting at the behest of private agencies to undermine the health of a healthy and thriving cooperative undertaking,” said social activist Biswajit Mohanty.

After he was shifted, Panda told a local TV channel that he was not sorry for the hike in price and rued that the viewpoint of farmers was not reflected in the media reports.

His short stints in various posts recently have been due to his decision to enforce pollution control on high profile industries, resisting moves to hand over fishing harbours to big ports, refusal to be bullied by builder lobbies, and enforcement of strict labour laws.

Related Stories

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in Business |