Updated 12 Apr 2022, 7:56 pm
Every year, scarcity of chemical fertilisers occurs and it always turns into a controversy. In a world where climate change is slowly taking control, the farmers are often left at the mercy of the erratic weather and unpredictable seasonal rains. Add to that, the government’s apathy or say indifference towards the plight of the farmers during the season. The season for planting of seeds and transplanting paddy begins inthe month of June with the onset of monsoon. In recent times, the monsoon has been erratic.
Add to that the problem of cash shortage among the farmers and rising prices of paddy seeds and fertilisers. Despite the huge need of fertilisers, there is only one distribution centre for fertilisers per district and farmers had to wait in long queues for availing the fertiliser.
Last year,the state government entrusted Deputy Commissioners with the task of availing 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 for the scarcity of fertilisers at a time when it is most needed. There is an urgent need to de-politicize fertiliser distribution which should involve the district administration and district level agriculture officers.
The new Agriculture Minister Thongam Bishwajit Singh has come up with a wonderful idea. In an effort to avoid fertiliser shortage issues during crop season he has instructed concerned officials to issue chemical fertilisers to farmers only after conducting field verification. As per the Centre's Instruction, chemical fertilisers can be issued to farmers after conducting soil testing of the respective paddy field. Well, the intent of the minister is appreciated.
However, questions on practicability of the idea are still there.It is going to be a gigantic task for the officials and staff of the agriculture department. Now, it is April and the task of soil testing and physical verification of the paddy fields has to begin right away. On the other hand, it is imperative for the new minister and the department concerned to understand the woes faced by the farmers in this poor state of ours.
First, most of the agricultural lands belong to the rich folks either in Imphal and other urban areas while the farmers are poor and depend on investments by the landowners. There is always the problem of cash shortage or lack of capital for beginning agriculture 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 Kgs) 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 practicing at a subsistence level as a survival for the poor and landless farmers. This important factor had to be taken into account while framing any agricultural policy, be it in terms of distribution of seeds or fertiliser besides irrigation facilities. There are problems when the distribution of seeds or fertiliser is based on production of patta copies of ownership of the paddy fields they are tilling.
Perhaps, a complete overhaul of the directorate is needed and we should begin by entrusting agriculture professionals with the leadership of the directorate instead of non-technical persons who simply do not understand the intricacies of agriculture and its importance in the overall economy of the state. We all have to remember that agriculture is the mainstay of our economy and it has been since times immemorial.
First published:12 Apr 2022, 7:56 pm
manipur farmersfertiliser shortagefertilser issuesManipur agriculture