Bihar farmers block roads over fertiliser shortage

Agitating farmers September 12 stole 60 bags of urea from a truck in Nawada district; allege local agencies creating an artificial crisis 

By C K Manoj
Published: Monday 13 September 2021

Farmers blocked roads and allegedly stole bags of urea in Bihar to protest against the shortage of fertilisers needed for their kharif crop. They alleged local agencies, in connivance with government officials, have caused an artificial crisis of fertilisers “to make a fast buck”.

The agitating farmers September 12, 2021, allegedly stole 60 bags of urea from a truck in Nawada district. The farmers had been for the past few days visiting godowns of local agencies to procure fertilisers, only to return empty-handed.

Farmers had levelled similar allegations against local agencies and government officials in 2015. Protests had ensued at that time as well. 

They blocked the roads in Sairdala block town of Nawada district when a urea-laden truck passed through the area. The police arrested two farmers with some bags of urea.

“Farmers are angry with the retailers who have created an artificial crises and are charging more than the subsidised rate,” Lakshman Prasad, district agriculture officer, said.

He said he had engaged teams of district officials in conducting raids at the fertilizer shops charging much from the farmers.

According to him, the fertiliser shops have been ordered to be open between 8 am and 5 pm in the day. But many have been keeping the shops shut in the day and stealthily opening them at night to sell fertilisers at a higher rate, Prasad said.

The minimum retail price of urea as fixed by the Government of India is Rs 268 for a 50 kilogram bag of urea; the farmers are allegedly being charged Rs 400-500 a bag.

Farmers have been standing in long queues right since night while waiting for the shops to open in the day to somehow lay their hands on fertiliser bags.

“We have been making rounds to fertiliser shops with my Aadhar cards for the past several days but have not got any,” Surendra Singh, a farmer from Bhojpur district, said.

Bhojpur, Kaimur and Rohtas district are known as the ‘rice bowl’ of Bihar for good paddy yields.

At many places, women have been seen joining the queues in large numbers.

One farmer is able to get only two bags of fertilizers on a single Aadhar card. Only the centres being run by Bihar State Cooperative Marketing Union Ltd (BISCOMAUN), an apex cooperative body, has been giving out four fertilizer bags on one Aaadhar Card.

BISCOMAUN has 175 centres in the state. “This artificial crisis has been caused by corrupt officers in league with the shop owners,” BISCOMAUN chairman Sunil Kumar Singh said.

According to Singh, during this Kharif season (from April till date), only 0.6 million metric tonnes of urea has been supplied to the state; 0.9 million tones of urea had reached Bihar during the same corresponding period last year.

 “Indian fertilizers are much in demand in Nepal for its better quality. The smuggling of fertilizers, therefore, goes on a significant scale,” said a farmer settled in Motihari.

The annual total consumption of fertilizer in Bihar is 0.3 million metric tones, of which, urea consumption is 2.4 million metric tonnes alone.

Agriculture officials pointed out that the state’s Rainbow Revolution scheme to train farmers to boost farm produce has increased fertiliser consumption. Farmers in the state majorly use three fertilizers: Urea, diammonium phosphate (DAP) and single super phosphate (SSP).

The state government recently provided year-wise consumption data in the Rajya Sabha, showing the trend in the quantity of chemical fertilizers used in India since 2015-16.

According to the data shared, urea is the most consumed fertilizer with around 30 million tonnes being consumed each year, accounting for 55-60 per cent of chemical fertilizer consumption in the country. Between 2016-17 and 2019-20, there has been a steady increase in the consumption of Urea, DAP and NPKs.

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