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MP: Farmers Collapse After Standing in Long Queues for Fertilisers Amidst Shortage

Visuals of farmers struggling for fertiliser in a queue or falling unconscious run wild on social media

Representational use only.

Bhopal: Agriculture is the mainstay of Madhya Pradesh's economy as 74.73% of the population is dependent on it. Yet, struggling for fertiliser and dying in its queues, every year, has become part of the farmer's fate.

As the shortage arises, especially in the Rabi season, every year, farmers block roads, picket collector's offices, and hold protests. Visuals of farmers struggling for fertiliser in a queue or falling unconscious or often dying run wild on social media. The Government machinery tries to fulfil it. But at last, the leftover farmers purchase it from the black market at over 20-30 % higher than normal rates.

This year, a 38-year-old farmer Ramprasad Kushwaha, a resident of Goyalheada village of Guna district fell unconscious while standing in a queue for fertiliser on 20th November. He was declared dead due to cardiac arrest when taken to a nearby Hospital. "He was running pillar to post for fertiliser for the last two days," said his nephew Makhan Singh.

Three brothers of Kushwaha had inherited three acres of land from the family and they had been jointly ploughing it. He is survived by his wife and two sons aged between 16 and 18.

Similarly, 58-year-old Shivnarayan Mewada, owner of three acres of land, collapsed minutes after getting a receipt of three packets of fertilisers after three days of struggle. He was also declared dead by the doctor because of cardiac arrest. He was a resident of Ichhawar, of Sehore, the Chief Minister's home district.

In the Kharif season, farmers in Madhya Pradesh grow soybeans, Paddy, Maize, Bajara Tur etc. and in Rabi season Wheat, Gram, Mustered, Cotton, Jowar and vegetables. Along with this Sugarcane, custard apple and banana are also grown in some districts.

According to agriculture experts, in the Rabi season, farmers needed roughly 22-23 lakh MT Urea, 11-12 lakh MT Di-ammonium phosphate (DAP) and 3-4 Lakh MT NPK (mix fertiliser) to meet the demand.

In Ratlam district’s Alot town, a sitting Congress MLA Manoj Chawla is facing robbery charges after farmers looted fertiliser from government storage on 1st November under his supervision.

Locals claimed that farmers were waiting for hours at the urea distribution centre. When officials failed to distribute urea owing to a technical snag after hours and it would take a day or so to fix the glitch, Chawla showed up, opened the shutter of the warehouse and provoked farmers to loot it.

On the other hand, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has been brushing aside the allegations of fertiliser shortage and warned action against those who mislead farmers and fan rumours.

Addressing farmers in a video, CM Chouhan on 16th November, said, "Fertiliser's supply is adequate in the state. The central government is constantly supplying it. The hardship you (farmers) are facing is not because of shortage but owing to technical snags in the distribution system. Farmers will get the fertiliser as per their requirements."    

"By fanning rumours of fertiliser shortage, a few people are trying to create anarchy in the state. The government will handle those people with an iron hand," he warned.

Yet, Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, the farmers’ wing of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) held a rally in Bhopal’s Motilal Vigyan Mahavidyalaya (MVM) ground on Tuesday.

They were upset over the shortage of fertiliser, erratic electricity bills, bureaucratic inadequacies leading to non-payment of compensation towards crop damages and others. Nearly 5,000 farmers from across the state participated in the rally. 

They demanded a special seven-day session of the state assembly to address the farmers' woes.

Addressing the rally, BKS's State President Kamal Singh Ajana said, “At least two farmers died while struggling to get fertilisers. There is a constant shortage of electricity, yet farmers are getting faulty bills. Besides, those transformers which are getting burned owing to power load and are left unrepaired for over months."

The BKS also submitted a memorandum with 25 points including the demand for the reintroduction of the Bhawantar scheme, release of payment for crops damaged in hail storms and other natural calamities, implementation of interest waiver on farm loans as was announced by the government, and the burnt transformers should be fixed within 24 hours. CM visited the protesting site to address the grievances.

Speaking to NewsClick, Ashok Barnwal, Additional chief secretary of the Farmers Welfare and Agriculture Development department also refuted the claims of fertiliser shortage claiming that Madhya Pradesh has distributed 1.5 times higher by 20th November this year in comparison to the previous year in the same duration.

He explained, "We import 50 % urea and 90 % DAP to meet our demands. Through our 1200 distribution centres, the state has distributed 23.39 lakh MT urea by November 20, 2022, against last year's 22.34 lakh MT. Similarly, 13 lakh MT DAP were distributed to date against last year's 11.18 lakh."

"In Just November, the government has distributed 4.02 lakh MT urea against last year's 2.93 lakh MT. Similarly, 2.17 lakh MT DAP has been distributed this year in November against 1.90 lakh MT last year," he added. 

When asked about the challenges he said, "Farmers did not need fertiliser during sowing. It needed 15 days after the sowing and then after 45 days. But, to avoid any fertiliser shortage in the future, they are stocking it now."

As the news of the long queues and farmer's death for fertiliser hit the deadlines, the Opposition Congress and Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M) also came down heavily on the state government.

Speaking to reporters last Wednesday, Kamal Nath said, "Madhya Pradesh has no shortage of corruption, jobless youths and others except the fertiliser. CM, every day, claims that there is no dearth, yet farmers are dying in the queue and spending nights at the centre to get it."

CPI(M) State secretary, Jaswinder Singh pointed out, “Despite the hardship, a few farmers are getting fertiliser as per their need. The remaining farmers have been buying a packet of DAP at Rs 1900 instead of Rs 1350 to meet their demands. Out of 51 districts, farmers are struggling for fertilisers in almost 20 districts including CM's home district Sehore."

He further said, "Two farmers have died in fertilizers' queue. Yet, the government is declaring it a natural death."  

Speaking to Newsclick over the impact of shortage or delay in fertiliser distribution, Kedar Sirohi, agriculture expert and leader of Kisan Congress pointed out that sowing of Rabi season has been delayed almost 20-25 days which may cause a drop of 10 % in the overall production of the season.”

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