Raipur, Mar 5 (ANI): Another name for Chhattisgarh is ' Dhan ka katora' or 'Rice Bowl'. There is an amazing variety of rice being grown across the region in Central India, largely dominated by tribal communities. This is a land blessed by the bounty of nature and has a combination of soil, water and temperature, which lends itself well to the cultivation of this all-important foodgrain.
Yet all this amounts to very little today and the farmer in parts of Chhattisgarh, specifically in Durg is unhappy. He is unable to make a decent profit from his produce in the market and is under stress.
The situation on the ground needs attention and agriculture is the mainstay of the region. True to type, the present political dispensation under Chief Minister Raman Singh is in its second term in office and at the outset, when making a pitch for a renewed mandate made high-sounding promises to the farming community. Yet again, as is also the pattern, these have fallen short or rather have been given the go by.
A glaring example is the additional support price of Rs. 250 per quintal apart from Minimum Support Price. This remains on paper only.
Politics apart, the growers of grain have been hit by natural calamities, rather imbalances in the climatic patterns, which are now unfortunately becoming more and more obvious. Unseasonable rains in October have destroyed standing crop of paddy.
It is the excess moisture in the air, which caused a particular kind of 'katva' insect to proliferate and attack the crop. This led to the eaves of grain beginning to shed uncharacteristic for the crop. It was not something anticipated and left the farmers at their wits end. Seeing their crop getting gradually destroyed meant not just a sheer waste of energy and the cost of the inputs but a lean period ahead.
Infact, many were caught in a dilemma; whether to harvest the crop prematurely and salvage what was left of it or to let it run its natural course. For these farmers who inherit centuries old wisdom of farming practices, of soil and weather conditions, it was a strange situation to be in.
They normally have all the answers. This however was different and a no-win situation, no matter how they chose. For those who harvested the crop early, they had to bear a loss in terms of the quantity they anticipated. For those who waited, it was indeed a bitter harvest.
The grain ripened excessively and began to literally dry up . What was worse and perhaps more painful to the farmer who lost it all was the act of removing the destroyed crop from the fields, knowing too well that it was a wasted season which would fetch nothing.
Many of them needed to employ labour to do the messy job, an additional cost, which they could ill-afford. Across the districts of Durg, Bilaspur, Raipur and Mahasammund, fields have been laid to waste.
The sorry state of the farmer in Chhattisgarh is really the story of the denuding of agriculture in this once grain-rich state. Today both reflect despair and are seeking support. If the present government is serious about turning things around for the farmer and for agriculture as a whole, it needs to begin in right earnest.
There is no dearth of programmes. There are provisions for drought-affected districts as there are provisions for other areas, which may get excess rain. But there is little evidence on the ground. Nothing reached the afflicted farmers.
There is dire need for accountability. Meanwhile for the farmer, unlike the politician, the period of reckoning is not the next election but the next agricultural season for which the present one is crucial.
According to sources, the fertilisers provided by the government are of inferior quality; the hybrid seeds promoted by them do not have the capacity as the 'desi' seeds. All of this needs to be looked into, questions of accountability raised and solutions found.
The fall-out of such errors can be harmful not only to the fortunes of the present or any government, but to the region as a whole, to the agriculture that sustains majority of people in this tribal-dominated state.
Thus what is happening is at once inevitable but also very disturbing. Farmlands are being sold, they are exchanging hands rapidly. The reasons are not hard to imagine. Farmers who used to live off the produce are facing a crisis today with the shrunken profits. Nor are they getting succor from the numerous schemes that exist purportedly for them.
It is these new farmers, the rich, large landowners who are the new face of agriculture in Chhattisgarh. The original cultivators, the ones who had sustained not just themselves, their families but agriculture itself, making the region a byword in rice production are today are on the retreat.
The identity of Chattisgarh as a 'Dhan ka Katora' can still be retained, feels the Charkha Development Communications. Despite all the odds, the government has been able to procure 47 lakh metric tones of the grain, probably enough to feed half of India! One can imagine what it would be like if agriculture could be get due attention to yield its optimum. By Vipin Thakur (ANI)