Shedding its initial hesitation, the Odisha government on Thursday decided to be a part of the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme and extend all support for its implementation in the State, a senior official said. The announcement was made on a day when a leading farmers’ body — Navnirman Krushak Sangathan — called for dawn-to-dusk strike against the State government’s “lack of concern” towards its demands.Chief Secretary A.P. Padhi said the Central scheme (PM-Kisan), which promises to provide ₹6,000 per annum to small and marginal farmers having cultivable land up to two hectares (about five acres), will be launched in Odisha on February 24, along with the other States.Earlier, after receiving a formal communication from the Centre about the mega farmers’ welfare scheme, the Odisha government had not shown any interest and dubbed it inferior to its own Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (KALIA), also meant for providing financial assistance to farmers.Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan had said that the State was not implementing the Centre’s scheme for farmers over fears that all credit would go to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had on Wednesday attacked Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for depriving the farming community from taking advantage of the central scheme.Agriculture and Farmers Empowerment Secretary Saurabh Garg said a list of around 12.45 lakh first-phase beneficiaries of the State government’s KALIA scheme will be given to the Centre for inclusion in PM-Kisan.According to PM-Kisan, the first tranche of ₹2,000 will be directly transferred to the beneficiaries’ bank accounts on February 24. The Centre will fund this initiative completely.Peaceful protestNormal life across Odisha was affected on Thursday due to the farmers’ strike. Though the protest — backed by the Congress as well as the BJP — continued peacefully, the police picked up about 200 protesters from different parts of the State, including 70 from Bhubaneswar.Holding placards and raising anti-government slogans, agitating farmers blocked roads in the city as well on national highways, prompting the 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.Mr. Mohanty claimed normal life in the twin cities of Bhubaneswar and Cuttack remained largely unaffected by the strike. 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.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 for fair price, pension and prestige to cultivators, forcing them to call the strike.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 termed the agitation “unfortunate”. “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 students. It’s even more saddening that two national political parties have extended their support to the bandh,” Mr. Behera said.Authorities at Utkal University and Shree Jagannath Sanskrit University said they have postponed examinations scheduled for Thursday.
HuffPost Originals announced today the launch of “Celebs Have Issues”, an original video series aimed at solving the world’s problems one comedy sketch at a time.Each star-studded episode spoofs a commercial, promo, or PSA and puts serious causes such as equal pay, transgender rights, and mental health in the spotlight, using wit and laughter as a means to fight the good fight.Each week, celebrities including Kristen Bell, Drew & Jonathan Scott, Mayim Bialik, Ty Burrell and Reid Scott will star in a custom sketch highlighting a cause of their choosing. Each individual episode will align with a charity in order to promote awareness – from I Am That Girl and Straight But Not Narrow to the National Alliance on Mental Illness and Kids In The Spotlight. The Huffington Post will work with these celebrities to create a real difference while making audiences laugh along the way.In the premiere episode, debuted this week, Kristen Bell stars as a hilarious advocate for the very unfunny issue of women’s inequality in the workplace. The episode begs the question, “Why outsource all your production to far away countries like India, China and Narnia when we have the cheapest and best workforce right here in the good ole’ US of A: Women.” Looking for employees who smell nice, bring in baked goods and don’t complain about their working conditions? Pinksourcing is the answer for you.Click here to watch the full episode online. New episodes will be available every Wednesday.