KOLKATA: THE jute and paddy growers in West Bengal are facing severe crisis as prices of their produce have sharply declined, causing distress sale. They are not even getting declared minimum support price as there is little or no effort from the state government for procuring the two major crops of the state. The jute price, which was around Rs 4000 per quintal last year, has come down to around Rs 2000 this season. In some of the major jute-growing districts like Nadia, North and South Dinajpur and Jalpaiguri the price is even lower in many areas. Repeated appeals by the peasants to the state government and Jute Corporation of India to procure from them have yielded no results. The middlemen are taking every opportunity available and forcibly lowering the prices. There is perceptible anger among the peasants who have come out in protest. In many areas in Northern districts, they have burnt their produce in wholesale markets and resorted to road blockades.
The paddy growers are also threatened by similar disastrous situation. Already the price of Aman variety has declined by nearly Rs 500 per quintal. At same period last year, per quintal paddy of this variety could fetch Rs 1150 to Rs 1200. This has now come down to Rs 750. The Aush variety is almost ready to be harvested.
Earlier, the Left Front government had added Rs 50 per quintal to declared central minimum support price. It used to prepare procurement infrastructure by September and apart from FCI, self help groups were activated to procure paddy from fields so that the peasants did not fall victim to market volatilities. There is no sign of this preparation apart from issuing formal bureaucratic circulars to district administrations.
With the cost of production increasing dramatically, the prices of fertilisers and pesticides shot up by many times. Black marketeering of fertilisers has become commonplace.
West Bengal recorded splendid development in agricultural production during the Left Front government’s period. The state had become one of the front-ranking producer in the country. This growth was the result of land reforms, intensified efforts from small and marginal farmers and well-planned administrative back-up from the state government. All these are now under serious strain with Trinamool Congress coming to power.
The Left peasant organisations have already submitted deputation to the state government demanding immediate intervention. A delegation of Left Front legislators, led by leader of opposition, Surya Kanta Misra met the agriculture minister and urged him to declare minimum support price following the recommendations of Farmers’ Commission. The peasants’ organisations are preparing for a wider movement in the near future.
People's Democracy, October 23, 2011