Why the present distribution of urea fails ?
Oinam Nabakishore Singh
Now, Monsoon has arrived in Manipur. Paddy fields are now getting ready to be sown or transplanted. Farmers specially in the valley, who are engaged in paddy cultivation are apprehensive about timely availability of urea.
In the past years, urea was sold at more than double the prices fixed by the State Government, Rs 268 per bag in black market. What are the reasons behind the non-availability and higher price of urea in the market ?
Till 2009-2010, the lifting of urea from the factories and its distribution was done by Apex Co-operative Marketing Society, dealers appointed by the manufacturers on the recommendation of Director, Agriculture. The responsibility of arranging trucks to transport urea was entirely with the dealers. Dealers were situated across the villages, where the demand for urea exists. It means that farmers don’t have to travel long distance to pick up a bag of urea as it is available in his neighborhood. The system was working smoothly except for the higher price levied by the dealers in order to recover additional costs due to extortion on the way as well from other well-known extortionists.
In the past, supply of urea was disrupted usually in rainy season for reasons like landslide and blockage of roads, artificial blockage due to road blockade imposed by civil society organizations, reluctance on the part of dealers to face various problems on the road, etc. As the dealers failed to perform their duties to meet the challenge then, it was decided by the State Government to lift urea from the factories and distribute to the farmers directly without involving the dealers.
This has been continued for about last ten years. But the hue and cry of farmers over non-availability of urea has also continued without any respite in any year.
What is wrong with the system of lifting, stocking and distribution of urea, which is very much essential for good harvest of paddy ?
The channel of distribution of urea is not only inadequate, but also completely wrong. Fertilizer like any other essential is required by all the paddy farmers and vegetable growers mainly in the valley districts. In the present arrangement, urea lifted by the transporters engaged by the State Government is stocked at the State headquarters. It is released in installments to the District Agriculture Officer for distribution to the farmers. But, it is very difficult for the limited staff of District Agriculture Office to cope with the paper works like checking of Aadhar of farmers, photocopy of patta before issue of urea.
It is both inconvenient and difficult for the farmers to come all the way to the office of District Agriculture Officer and stand in queue to get one bag of urea. Earning loss for one or two days to visit office is precious specially during planting season. In fact, it is a scene of chaos at the agriculture office. Last year, when there were complaints from farmers, Agriculture Department had to use the services of DCs to handle the situation.
The solution to the crisis faced by the farmers can be found by involving dealers/agents appointed at village level as being done for Fair Price Shops.
The cost of transportation of urea right upto the godown of agents shall be borne by the State. Reasonable margin per bag of urea may be fixed by the Govt., which will be reimbursed by the Govt. District Agriculture Office can maintain some sock of urea to be an alternative channel for distribution of urea. Such arrangement will work as a counterbalance to maintain price of urea. Good governance includes free and fair distribution of urea to the farmers. Some villages like Kwasiphai, Khoijuman, Potshangbam, require urea in off-season too as they grow vegetables. Agriculture Department should pay attention to such requirements as urea in black market costs more than one thousand rupees per bag.