Manipur: Heated Argument in Assembly Over Urea Issue

Imphal, August 23 2021: The second session of the legislative assembly on Monday witnessed a heated argument over the issue of urea distribution.

After a flurry of charges and counter charges, chief minister N Biren and agriculture minister O Lukhoi assured of delivering the urea requirement to the farmers within a week.

Moving a calling attention motion, Sugnu MLA K Ranjit said that farmers are facing immense hardships in trying to ensure proper plantation of paddy rice amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

They spent huge expenditure in irrigating their farmlands as the state received less rainfall this time and failure of the government in distributing urea to the farmers in time has added to their hardships.

The issue has become a serious one and even a farmer died on his way to stand in midnight queue to get fertiliser.

The government should know that application of urea in the farms is time bound and delivering it late will be meaningless.

Farmers’ organisations are demanding discussion on this issue in the House, probing it by forming an enquiry committee and framing of a proper policy to prevent such issues in the future.

Some are even expressing suspicion of diverting urea for poppy plantation, he said.

He further said that the system of distributing urea has full of flaws and confusion.

Sometimes, the department distributes urea through DCs, then through DAOs, through MLAs and sometimes through political activists preparing to contest elections.

There is no clear system of distribution and such flawed system resulted in failure of benefitting the targeted population.

Besides, some intending candidates are providing fertilisers only to their supporters, the MLA said, while drawing attention of the House to frame a proper policy so that every farmer gets their fair share of fertiliser.

He pointed out that there are around 79,000 hectares of farmland in the valley with 28,000 hectares waterlogged.

However, these waterlogged areas are still included in the survey of the agriculture department.

On the other hand, 7500 hectares of farmlands are being used for organic farming under MOMA and these farmlands do not use urea or any other chemical fertiliser.

And almost all of the farmlands in hill areas do not use urea and it leaves only about 8,500 hectares of farmland that use urea.

Out of these small areas, many have already been lost to constructions of home, brick farm, industries, schools and other commercial structures.

As such, only 2,41,000 bags of urea are the actual need of the state.

The state’s share of urea has been increased from 15 MT to 20 MT apart from this, the state is also getting 8 MT of urea separately for Rabi crop.

The stock of around 1 lakh urea bags in the agriculture department will be enough to meet the requirement of farmers, he said, while urging the government to take up necessary steps for distributing the same to the farmers within a week.

MLA O Surjakumar also brought up the issue of urea unavailability in Thoubal district and drew attention of the House for resolving the issue.

He also urged the government to provide some financial relief to the family of a farmer, who died on his way to collect his share of fertiliser.

In response, chief minister N Biren said that the issue of urea is a national issue and the government is monitoring it every day.

Since the department cannot bring in the urea allocation in one go, the department could not distribute them to all the farmers at once and it is obvious that some farmers get their share first and some later.

Recently, some individuals were arrested for sharing a 2011 report of farmers vandalising department storehouse as a recent report, and they were released after giving proper advice against such indulgence in future.

The government has been unbiased in distributing urea, the CM said, while assuring the House of delivering fertiliser to the remaining farmers within a week.

Agriculture minister Lukhoi clarified that the fertiliser requirement of the state is actually 5,50,000 bags out of which the Centre has already allocated 4,40,000 bags.

There is a stock gap of about 1,10,000 bags at present.

A total of about 3,14,000 bags of fertiliser have been received so far by the agriculture department, he said.

Lukhoi further stated that the actual price of the fertiliser is about Rs 650 per bag and the government is providing it at a subsidised rate of Rs 266.04 per bag.

As per rules and guidelines laid down by the Point of Sale (POS) portal, documents like AADHAR card, land patta, price value of land are required for getting access to fertilisers by farmers and it is a time-consuming exercise that cannot be avoided by a short-cut basis and this formal process creates problem to the farmers, he explained.

He also stated that farmers cannot violate the rules and guidelines laid down in the portal.

Lukhoi clarified that it costs around Rs 100.80 per fertiliser bag in transportation including loading-unloading charges.

Thus, a total of about Rs 8 to 9 crore is borne by the agriculture department for transportation of the fertilisers alone.

Plan is in the pipeline for mobile distribution of fertilisers to farmers in different districts through concerned DCs, District Agriculture Officers (DAOs), elected members and CSOs.

He further assured to look into the matter if there is any hindrance in availing fertilisers in areas like Kumbi among others.

On the matter of politicising distribution of fertlilisers in the hill and valley districts of the state, the minister clarified that the department works transparently and there is no such issue of vested interests and black-marketing.

Apart from agriculture purpose, fertilisers are also used in fish-farming, he added.

He also said that the government actually sanctions about 45 kg fertiliser per sangam instead of 30 kg as per the department’s guidelines keeping in view of the welfare of the farmers.

About 1,87,181 fertiliser bags have been distributed so far as of August 12, and around 32,060 bags are in stock for distribution to all the districts of the state.

So altogether a total of about 2,19,240 bags have been allocated, he added.

The minister also assured of consulting with the chief minister regarding payment of compensation to the family of the deceased farmer.

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