Every year, the scarcity of chemical fertilisers occurs, and it always turns into a controversy. In a world where climate change is slowly taking control, farmers are often left at the mercy of erratic weather and unpredictable seasonal rains. Add to that the government’s apathy or indifference towards the plight of the farmers during the agricultural season. In Manipur, the season for planting seeds and transplanting paddy begins in the month of June with the onset of the monsoon.
In recent times, the state has been witnessing an erratic monsoon. Add to that, the problem of cash shortages among farmers and rising prices of paddy seeds and fertilisers. This year, it has become all the more imperative for the authorities to ensure farmers avail the fertilisers in time, in view of the prevailing unrest and security in the periphery areas of the valley, where the majority of farmers live.
As militants continue to take pot shots at farm workers, the state government is on overdrive to destroy bunkers in both the hills and the fringe areas of the valley and to provide security to the farmers during work. Well, this is a formidable task as security has to be provided on time.
Rain does not wait for security to come; it has to be provided at the right time.
The year before, the state government entrusted district deputy commissioners with the task of providing fertilisers to farmers and at centres, other than the district headquarters, which was a good move.
We all know, some MLAs and powerful politicians are stockpiling fertilisers for distribution among their constituents, and this is an important factor in the scarcity of fertilisers at a time when it is most needed.
There is an urgent need to depoliticise fertiliser distribution, which should involve the district administration and district-level agriculture officers.
This year, the chief minister himself took a meeting of the officials of the Agriculture Department and seems to have chalked out a strategy.
An additional fund of Rs 2.5 crore will be allocated to the Agriculture Department for the procurement of fertiliser. In the meeting, various decisions were taken regarding the distribution of fertilisers.
Farmers possessing valid Farmer Identity Cards issued by the competent authority can procure fertilisers from DAOs or dealers on production of the card after payment of the requisite amount. No other documents will be required for such farmers. Fertiliser (Urea) can be procured by the farmers on production of their Pattas and Aadhaar cards from the District Agriculture officers or dealers after payment of the requisite amount.
Tenant farmers who are unable to produce a patta of the land may obtain a certificate from their respective MLAs indicating their patta number and size of land. Such a certificate will be accepted in lieu of the Patta for tenant farmers.
The tenant farmers will also be required to submit a copy of their Aadhar card and an undertaking to the effect that they are the actual tenant farmers of the said land, when they come to procure fertiliser at the office of the District Agriculture officers/dealers. We are glad that the issue of tenant farmers has been taken into account.
In the state, most of the agricultural lands belong to the rich, either in Imphal or other urban areas, while the farmers are poor and depend on investments by the landowners. There is always the problem of cash shortages or a lack of capital for beginning agricultural activities.
Manipur farmers are mostly poverty stricken and indebted. So, they depend on investments from the urban people in the form of ‘Phoudamshel’ and the landowners. They still have to give the pledged number of Phoubots (80 kg) to the investors or the landowners while they struggle with whatever is left of the harvest. Their entire sustenance depends on that.
A regular farmer feeds his family, pays the fees for his children and other essential expenses with the income from the harvest. And they suffer when the price of paddy plummets.
In a word, agriculture in the state is still practiced at a subsistence level as a survival for the poor and landless farmer. This important factor had to be taken into account while framing any agricultural policy, be it in terms of distribution of seeds or fertilisers besides irrigation facilities.
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