Guest Author: Vinod K. Shah, Agriculture Journalist
29 November 2021, Madhya Pradesh: The departmental officers of the government handling the fertilizer system for the farmers in Madhya Pradesh are keeping the state government and the farmers in the dark even now when the sowing of crops has begun. The officials of the state were talking about adequate availability of fertilizers in the state by the end of October. Whereas the reality is that the lies of the government officials have been heavy on both the government and the farmer.
Due to the post-harvest rains in the state, about fifty percent of the farmers were ready for sowing in the month of October. Unfortunately due to unavailability of adequate fertilizer supply, majority of them couldn’t do the rabi sowing on time. When the situation started deteriorating due to the anger of the farmers in the entire state, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh had to come forward to take over the front.
The Chief Minister of the State asked the Central Government to immediately provide quantity of 32 rakes of fertilizers and also to crush the black marketers with power. The situation has improved in the last few days. But before this, there has been a lot of black marketing of fertilizers in the state.
In the month of October, 40 percent of the farmers of the state have been forced to sow by buying fertilizers from the open market at expensive prices. There is no doubt that the fertilizers available earlier have reached the black marketers in the month of October through the employees of the cooperative society and marketing union. Under political pressure by the marketing union, the fertilizer were distributed to a few cooperatives only and some selected committees have been supplied fertilizers more than the fixed quota. Till the end of October, there have been many cooperative societies, which were not provided even a single sack of fertilizers by the State Marketing Federation.
In the current period, more than 50 percent of pulses, mustard and long duration wheat have been sown in the state. But the state bureaucrats are not ready to accept that there is any fertilizer crisis in Madhya Pradesh. Ministry level officers are telling the entire government including the Chief Minister that there is no shortage of fertilizer in the state and the farmer is buying more fertilizer than the requirement. The responsible officers are doing the same thing at the district level as well. But on the contrary, the truth which is in front of everyone, except in the by-election area, farmers across the state have been puzzled for fertilizers. Long queues outside cooperative societies, painful pictures of sick, elderly and women standing in queues are enough to expose the lies of the state bureaucrats.
In Madhya Pradesh, the State Marketing Association has the responsibility of storing and distributing fertilizers. For the current Rabi season, the State Marketing Federation was to store 4.5 lakh tonnes of urea, four lakh tonnes of DAP, 3.90 lakh tonnes of mixed fertilizer NPK in the cooperative societies during the period from 1st August to 15th September 2021. For this, the State Government has been providing an amount of Rs 600 crore every year to the State Marketing Association in advance in the form of bank guarantee. But in view of the huge DAP prices at the international level and the increase in the subsidy of the Central Government soon after, the intention of the State Marketing Federation was to earn more profit in view of the increase in the price of NPK fertilizers. Due to this deliberately, fertilizers were not stored in advance in all the cooperative societies of the state. Now, from the data of the government, availability of fertilizers in the state is showing an increase of 53 thousand tonnes as compared to last year.
The State Marketing Association is still trying to cover up the truth. Angry farmers were agitated due to non-availability of fertilizers. At the local level, the farmers have been forced to organize agitations like dharna and rail track jams. Except the election districts, there is no easy availability of fertilizer in all the remaining districts of the state. For the last few years, the state government has been providing advance fertilizers to the farmers of the state on interest free amount through cooperative societies during the rainy season. With this policy, the state government was saving crores of rupees spent on storage. But the policy of making profit in the current year of the State Marketing Association has been causing financial loss to the state government and also putting it in trouble. State government officials are talking about its full availability along with describing indigenous NPK fertilizer as the best alternative to DAP. But even NPK fertilizers are not available with the cooperatives to be given to the farmers. A mixture of NPK, single super phosphate and urea can become an alternative to DAP, but the state agriculture department has completely failed to provide such awareness information to the farmer on how to use this mixture.
The state government was also talking about implementing a system like e-voucher before the season to prevent black marketing of fertilizers and its unnecessary use. Under the scheme, on the basis of the agricultural land available with the farmers of the state, a fixed quantity of fertilizer was to be given to the farmers. But the state’s sluggish administrative system seems to be failing to implement the plan. In the current year, 25 percent of the farmers of the state are in the category of defaulters due to non-payment of their previous cooperative society loans. Government committees are not giving any fertilizer to such borrowers. Due to this, the number of fertilizer-consumers with cooperative societies has been less as compared to last year, whereas if the government is to be believed, the availability of fertilizer in the government records of the state is more than last year. In such a situation, the big question is, where did the state’s fertilizer go?.
The government and the farmers both were kept in the dark. It is necessary to take action against the responsible officers and employees who took advantage of the situation to save farmers from being exploited in future.