Angry with the administration for being unable to end the fertiliser shortage and the soaring black market, hundreds of farmers blocked roads and clashed with the police in Nalanda, the home district of Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, on Wednesday. The police have registered a case against 75 protesting farmers, including 25 women, for causing ruckus at a public place.
The incident was the first violent protest against the state government over the fertiliser shortage. Reports of growing anger among farmers have triggered regular protests in different parts of the state. Three days ago, a group of protesting farmers looted more than 100 bags of urea from a truck in Nawada district.
According to district administration officials, farmers in Islampur, in Nalanda, blocked roads, protested and shouted slogans against the fertiliser crisis during the ongoing Kharif season. A local police team first requested the farmers to leave the place. When they refused, the police tried to use force, resulting in the clash.
Opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal MLC Sunil Kumar Singh, who is also the chairman of Bihar State Cooperative Marketing Union Limited (BISCOMAUN), an apex cooperative society, shared a video clip of the clash on social media. “This is the reality in Nitish Kumar’s home district, where farmers are helpless and angry over shortage of fertilisers contrary to the state government’s claims that there is no such crisis,” he told Newsclick.
Farmers are forced to purchase a few sacks of fertilisers at a higher price from the black market, Singh said, adding, “Thanks to the government’s failure, private dealers and retailers are selling fertilisers at high prices in broad daylight in full knowledge of the district administration. Farmers are forced to pay Rs 400-Rs 500 per sack of urea instead of the government’s rate of Rs 266 per sack of 50 kg of urea.”
Only 0.6 million metric tonnes of urea has been supplied to the state, Singh claimed, as against 0.9 million tonnes in the corresponding period last year. “The crisis is result of less supply of urea. The state government should have demanded an adequate supply from the Centre.”
Balmiki Sharma, a farmer in Paliganj, Patna district, said that farmers have no option but to purchase fertilisers at higher prices to save the crops remaining after the spate of floods in the last two-and-a-half months. “This is the right time to spray fertilisers and purchasing them at government rates due to the shortage is a big challenge,” he told Newsclick.
Thousands of farmers in more than 16 flood-affected districts, including East and West Champaran, Gopalganj, Samastipur, Darbhanga and Muzaffarpur, are struggling to save their standing crops due to lack of urea availability. Large tracts of standing crops were destroyed by floods in the last three months since mid-June.
CPI (ML) leader Dhirendra Jha said that the crisis, which started in July itself, has worsened, exposing the lack of seriousness of the Kumar-led NDA government to ensure supply of fertilisers from the Central quota for the state.