After floods destroyed standing Kharif crops in nearly 4.87 lakh hectares, farmers of Bihar are struggling with the shortage of fertilisers and a soaring black market.
Hareram Pandey and Sanjeev Yadav, both marginal farmers of a village near Motihari, East Champaran district, were forced to purchase a few sacks of fertilisers at a higher price from the black market.
“Farmers have no option but to purchase fertilisers by paying more money to save the crops remaining after the spate of floods in the last two-and-a-half months. This is the time to spray fertilisers. Purchasing fertilisers at government rates due to the shortage is a big challenge,” a helpless Pandey told Newsclick.
First, the floods “broke our backs and now the government’s failure in providing us fertilisers have added to our misery”, Yadav said. “Dealers are selling fertilisers at high prices in broad daylight in full knowledge of the district administration with farmers purchasing a sack of urea for Rs 350, about Rs 84 more than the fixed government rate of Rs 266,” he told Newsclick.
Pandey and Yadav are among the thousands of farmers of East Champaran, one of the worst flood-hit districts of Bihar. Large tracts of standing crops in villages in neighbouring West Champaran, Gopalganj and Muzaffarpur districts across the Gandak Basin have been destroyed in the last 80 days since mid-June, they said.
With farmers protesting the shortage of fertilisers and the black market at different places in recent days, East Champaran district magistrate Shirsat Kapil Ashok has directed the officials to take action against hoarders. So far, 19 FIRs have been lodged against hoarders and licences of 65 shops suspended.
The crisis, which started in July itself, has worsened, exposing the lack of seriousness of the Nitish Kumar-led NDA government to ensure supply of fertilisers from the Central quota for the state.
Farmers in south Bihar are struggling with the shortage of fertilisers as well. Hundreds of farmers at Rajauli and Nardiganj, in Nawada district, blocked roads and shouted slogans against the alleged government-dealer nexus on Monday.
Farmers in neighbouring Gaya district are frustrated as well. “There is a long queue of farmers at every fertiliser shop in Gaya. After queuing up for hours, a farmer gets only one sack of urea. Therefore, we have been forced to purchase fertilisers from the black market,” another Vijay Kumar told Newsclick.
A helpless Sanjay Kumar Singh narrated the same story, saying he was forced to purchase urea from the black market. “If we do not spray urea, the paddy crop will be damaged.”
Gaya district agriculture officer Sudama Mahto claimed that the supply of urea has increased recently and the shortage will end by September 15.
In neighbouring Aurangabad, men and women in large numbers queue up since late night outside fertiliser shops. Some angry farmers blocked roads and protested at several places in the last one week demanding an adequate supply of fertilisers.
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejashwi Yadav, who is also the Leader of Opposition in the Bihar Assembly, on Monday criticised the state government for the fertiliser shortage and the rampant black market. He tweeted to express his support to the farmers.
बिहार के किसान अनेक समस्याओं से जूझ रहे है। NDA सरकार में MSP तो कभी मिलता ही नहीं। अब कहीं बाढ़ की समस्या है तो कहीं खाद की भारी किल्लत है। कालाबाजारी चरम पर है। डबल इंजन सरकार कुंभकर्णी नींद में है। खाद बिक्री केंद्रों के बाहर किसान दिन रात लाइन में लग खाद के लिए जगे रहते है। (The farmers of Bihar are grappling with several problems. The NDA government never pays them the MSP. Either there is problem of floods or the shortage of fertiliser. The fertiliser black marketing is soaring. The ‘Double Engine’ government is sleeping like Kumbhkarna. Farmers are queuing up in front of fertiliser centres for long hours).
7:00 AM · Sep 6, 2021
Bihar agriculture minister and senior Bharatiya Janata Party Amrendra Pratap Singh, who denied any fertiliser shortage or black market on September 3, had requested Union minister of chemical and Fertilisers Mansukh L Mandaviya on September 1 to ensure supply of, at least, 1 lakh tonne of urea to Bihar at the earliest.
Singh had reportedly informed Mandaviya that Bihar had received 5.90 lakh tonne of urea till August 31 during the ongoing Kharif season, which was 2.22 lakh tonne less than what the state received (8.12 lakh tonne) during the same period last year.
According to agriculture scientists at the Dr Rajendra Prasad Central Agricultural University in Pusa, Samastipur district, the use of fertilisers, including urea, DAP and potash, in Bihar has been increasing with farmers desperate to produce more. Bihar is one of the leading paddy-producing states. In 2019-20, the state was the biggest user of fertilisers at about 245.25 kg per hectare.
Agriculture is the backbone of Bihar’s economy, employing 81% of the workforce and generating nearly 42% of the state’s domestic product, according to state government figures. About 76% of Bihar’s population is dependent on agriculture for livelihood.
Meanwhile, the floodwaters are receding. As per the Disaster Management Department’s latest daily flood report on September 5, 19.92 lakh people in 1,652 villages across 15 districts were affected by the floods. After a month, this is the first time that the number of flood-hit people is below the 20 lakh mark and the number of affected villages less than 2,000. So far, 53 people have died due to floods this year.