Test for Congress as urea crisis looms in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan
The newly elected Congress governments in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are facing their first test in the agriculture front in the middle of the rabi season (January to March) due to shortage of urea in several districts.
Farmers in Raisen and Guna districts in Madhya Pradesh staged protests and blocked roads after the cooperative societies ran out of the urea on Thursday. The farmers alleged that black-marketing was rampant by private traders. There were reports of protests from Dewas and Neemuch on Friday also.
Meanwhile, in Rajasthan’s Hadoti region, long queues were seen outside cooperative committee offices for urea.
Commissioner, agriculture production, Madhya Pradesh, additional chief secretary, PC Meena, says 18 of the 51 districts in the state is facing a shortage. He claims that the shortfall was due to channelising urea to Haryana and Punjab.
“We are getting additional railway racks for urea and the crisis will end within three to four days. Also, there are some logistical problems leading to the crisis. There is no black marketing going on, I haven’t received any complaints,” says Meena.
However, farm group leaders allege that the shortfall is due to rampant sale of urea in the black market.
“A 45 kg bag of urea cost ~250 and farmer gets it in credit when they purchase it from the cooperative society, but private traders are selling it at ~450 per bag and there is nobody to check it. Traders have been given a free hand because they contributed funds during elections,” alleges Bharatiya Kisan Union state general secretary Anil Yadav.
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-backed Bharatiya Kisan Morcha Madhya Prant general secretary Shivkant Dixit says the shortage is due to government’s policy of giving more urea to traders and less to cooperative societies.
“Earlier 20% of urea was given to traders, now it is 50%. Farmers prefer to buy it from society as they get credit, and hence the long queues,” says Dixit.
According to figures of the agriculture department, Madhya Pradesh needs 13 lakh tonne of urea for the ongoing rabi season and so far the state has received 8 lakh tonne, of which 1.5 lakh tonne is still in godowns. The urea quota of Madhya Pradesh is 3.70 lakh tonne every month.
Before the state elections in November, the central government gave 4.10 lakh tonne, with the promise that the state would be given the same quantity during December and January. But till Thursday, the Centre has released only 1.89 lakh tonne of urea, said officials of the agriculture department.
“We need an additional 80,000 to 90,000 tonne of urea in December and we have been promised that five railway racks of urea (each rack carries 3,000 tonne of urea) will be provided to MP. It should be sufficient to tide over the crisis,” says Meena.
But the Kamal Nath-led Congress government in Madhya Pradesh is not taking any chances. The chief minister talked to railway minister Piyush Goyal and Union chemicals and fertiliser minister Sadananda Gowda and urged them to provide additional railway racks and urea and also directed officials to monitor the situation.
Meanwhile, the situation in Rajasthan is also grim.
“I have been standing in the queue outside shops for the last couple of days to get 30 bags of urea, but I have not got a single bag,” said Raju Nagar, 45, a farmer from Gadepan village in Kota district. Each bag contains 45 kg urea.
Bharat Singh, Congress MLA from Sangod, Kota, blamed the Centre for the urea shortage. “The Centre failed to allocate sufficient urea to the states and now farmers in Rajasthan are bearing the brunt,” he said.
Blaming the Congress government, Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Kisan Morcha state secretary Mukut Nagar said, “farmers are struggling to get urea for the rabi season, it’s for the newly-elected state government to ensure its availability.”
However, officials deny of any urea shortage. Divisional commissioner, Kota, KC Verma said the railway racks with 3,198 metric tonnes of urea arrived on Friday and distributed to cooperative societies. He added that the Kota division has so far received 1.61 lakh metric tonnes from its annual quota of 2.38 lakh lakh metric tonnes.
Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot has also assured that farmers will not face any urea shortage and monitoring will be done at district-level.
On Gehlot’s directions, chief secretary DB Gupta spoke to additional secretary Dharam Pal, and urged him to ensure availability of urea. Principal secretary agriculture and cooperative, Abhay Kumar has been asked to meet secretary fertiliser Bharathi Sivaswami Sihag to discuss the issue.