Urea: The irony of shortage & enough stock
Shortage of urea at the height of paddy cultivation season points to a very sorry state of affairs as far as distribution of the subsidized fertilizer item is concerned. Either there is a serious flaw in the distribution mechanism or the mechanism has been manipulated to suit the interest of a few influential people at the cost of the farmers, in particular and the whole State, in general. Shortage or unavailability of urea at the height of paddy cultivation season is not something new in the State. Rather, it has evolved into a chronic issue over the years. It is a common knowledge that paddy cultivation in the State is heavily dependent on rainfall and fertilizers, more specifically urea. Annual rainfall or volume of rainfall is purely a natural phenomenon and it is beyond the control of the State but shortage or unavailability of urea at the height of paddy cultivation season is undoubtedly a man-made problem. The State can definitely solve the problem of shortage of urea if it is sincere enough and has the will to redress the grievances of farmers. The irony is both stark and striking. Whereas the State Government has been repeatedly announcing through media and other platforms that there is enough stock of urea, farmers from different parts of the State have been complaining of either inadequate supply or complete unavailability of the fertilizer item. The situation is so distressing that the Moirang Kendra Farmers Development Cooperative Society Limited has resolved to air their grievances by imposing a total bandh on Tidim Road for 48 hours with effect from August 26 midnight if the Government does not provide them sufficient quantity of urea in the next couple of days. Why are farmers not getting sufficient quantity of urea if there is enough stock to meet the requirement of the whole State as claimed by the Government? If the farmers’ distress call is any indication, there is a strong possibility of some people diverting the subsidized fertilizer somewhere. Is urea exported to neighbouring countries through a clandestine network? Is the subsidized fertilizer diverted from paddy cultivation to poppy plantation? These are some pertinent questions thrown up by the farmers’ repeated distress call.
It is understood that urea is distributed through MLAs and District Agriculture Offices. Are some of the MLAs, if not all, denying fertilizers to selected farmers for personal political reasons? Has the distribution mechanism been so twisted by Government officials that a large number of farmers are left with little or no urea at the height of the paddy cultivation season? These are some hypothetical questions which nonetheless need to be looked into if the distribution of urea must be streamlined. One can never expect the State to become self sufficient in food grain production if paddy cultivation is plagued by shortage of urea every year. The War on Drugs will face a very stiff challenge if urea is diverted from paddy cultivation to poppy plantation. Another very important requirement for paddy cultivation is water but rainfall is beyond the control of the State. Herein lies the importance of irrigation facilities. The tragedy of paddy cultivation in the State is that it is always plagued by too much rainfall or too little rainfall. No doubt, a number of irrigation or multipurpose dams have been built in different parts of the State but the effectiveness of their utility is highly questionable. It is an undeniable fact that Manipur is one of the States which receive highest rainfall annually in the country. The problem lies in the State’s inability to stock or harvest rain waters and channelize them to where they are required. The issue of irrigation is always deliberated in every monsoon session of the State Assembly but no concrete action or plan is visible so far and this speaks volumes about the Government’s lack of commitment in agriculture sector.