Grassroots Reachout & Networking in India on Trade & Economics (GRANITE)

Uttar Pradesh First Reachout Meeting
Sitapur District, July 26, 2005

Total persons who attended the reachout meet – 261
Total signatures collected from the rural communities
for GRANITE UP document – 225

The GRANITE project is being implemented in Uttar Pradesh by Network of Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (NEED), Lucknow, with support from Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS), Jaipur. The project is being simultaneously implemented in seven other states in India. It is a two-year project (beginning from January 2005) aimed at capacity-building of civil society organisations (CSOs), media, grassroots groups, government officials, etc. to address complex issues of globalisation and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and their relationship with economic development and governance in India. GRANITE was taken up by NEED in January 2005. 

NEED organised a daylong reachout meeting on July 26, 2005, with farmers and other producer groups, artisans, cultivators, peasants, self-help groups (SHGs), clusters, associations, panchayat members, craft persons, women producer groups and many other stakeholders including local media of Mahmudabad rural block of Sitapur district. Many people gathered in the meet from adjoining villages and around 46 percent of the participants were women. That makes the total number of women present to be 120. Around 70 women were primarily engaged in agricultural activities and remaining were engaged in handloom/handicraft related activities. The meeting began with the inaugural remarks of Irshd Hasan Khan, NEED. Subsequently Ram Dularey, Secretery, Mandi Parishad, Surendra Kumar, PC-NEED, Subodh Singh, Project Coordinator GRANITE-NEED, Rajkumar Jain and others Reporter belonging to The Hindustan, Dainik Jagran, AAJ, etc., addressed the gathering. This was followed by interaction and individual reactions of the farmers and other producer groups.

Background of the Participants  

Most of the farmers and other producer groups in the area own less than three acres of land are from backward social sections, and many can be categorised as marginal farmers and other producer groups. There is a big gap and variation in the condition of small and big farmers and other producer groups. The major crops have been wheat, paddy, sugarcane and mentha, out of which presently sugarcane and mentha are produced on a large scale. Even after huge production of these two cash crops, the socio-economic condition of the farmers and other producer groups has not improved; the farmers and other producer groups still take agriculture as a sustenance activity and not as a business.

Moreover, a large number of women in the area are engaged in Chikancraft, Zardozi. This craft has been present in the area for a long time, and few organisations have promoted it in the area in the past few years. This occupation has also faced some problems; many new ventures are at the verge of closing down. These women are mostly exploited by the mediators, who bring them to work from the adjoining cities of Lucknow and Sitapur.

Climatic Conditions 

Mahmudabad has a plain terrain. The area is mostly rainfed in the monsoon season. Canals also cover around 30% of the area. The area is also prone to floods caused by the river ‘Ghaghra’.

The climate is good enough for cultivating three crops a year, but the soil fertility is comparatively less, which sometimes allows cultivation of less than three crops a year. The main crops in the region are Wheat, Masur and Arhar in the ‘Rabi’ season and Paddy in ‘Kharif’ season. Sugarcane is also produced on a large scale. Besides, probably the largest production in the area is of Menthol/Peppermint, which has helped a lot in the economic growth of the farmers of the region and is mostly cultivated in the ‘Jayad’ season.

Farmers are well aware about the soil fertility and its importance. They are using many techniques for saving and restoring the soil fertility already damaged. They are aware about the techniques of organic farming and are also practicing the same. Crop rotation is a well-practiced technique in the region towards protection of soil fertility. For example, farmers use the residues of menthol as an organic compost to increase their productivity. Some are even cultivating medicinal plants.

The Problem 

First and foremost, despite contributing enormously to the economy of agriculture and textile sector, the farmers and producer groups and other rural producer groups have always been in a deprived and dispossessed position with regards to their direct accessibility to market opportunities, infrastructure, the realisation of entitlements, relevant information, decision-making process and many other participative factors. Additionally, their engagement into the policy framework of the state government, particularly through their existing community-based organisations (CBOs) such as SHGs, Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs), Clusters, Village School Teachers, Farmers and other producer groups Schools and many more are completely left out. The advantages or even disadvantages out of existing agreement between India and WTO, particularly in agriculture and textile sector, have completely been kept away from such rural communities.

As experienced by various stakeholders, even after many development interventions in the area, bringing economic development here is a difficult task. The divide between rich and poor is increasing which can be fatal in the end. This complex situation is ever increasing in the light of socio-economic changes, globalisation and policy changes without taking into consideration the grassroots scenario. It is clear that the present situation is the result of dynamics of last few decades and only one factor cannot be held responsible for this. The problem of the agriculture scenario is affected both by the natural factors as well as manmade factors i.e. failure or improper implementation of these policies, etc.

It is with this background that NEED set out to organise the reachout meeting inviting farmers and producer groups and other rural producer groups to listen, understand and share the existing pro-poor driven issues, challenges and concern with respect to the prime nature of trade and economics related problem.


The objective of the meeting was to bring farmers and other producer groups to a common platform, to discuss the opportunities and challenges in agriculture and to share and learn information and opinions with reference to their livelihood. Besides, after having gathered grassroot driven information and statements, the reachout meet also enables to place the documents before the heads of the state government for their active consideration and thereby facilitate the process for establishing State Trade Policy Council (STPC).

Highlights of the discussion

Irshd Hasan Khan 

The development work in agriculture and textile sectors till now has been limited to technology upgradation, dissemination of information of new varieties and methods of cultivation, etc. but they alone have not been able to improve the situation as not much has been done in the area of trade and economics related aspects of these sectors. The project GRANITE aims at initiating these activities and will be beneficial in the long run for the farmers and other producer groups.

The Indian agriculture is weak in comparison to others as the various factors i.e. quality, yield, wages, input prices, market prices of crops, etc are not competitive. There is an urgent need to improve this situation.

Quality, yield, input prices, wages, crop prices and host of factors influence the competitiveness of Indian agriculture. Presently, Indian produce is not competitive in any of these areas.

Onkar Nath, Farmer, Palia Khurd

“The local cooperative is not functioning, there is government apathy towards the same and farmers and other producer groups are suffering due to this. They face difficulties in procuring fertilizers, pesticides and seeds as earlier they used to buy this from cooperatives. These inputs are available in the market at a very high price and are of low quality. Traders are selling spurious inputs.

The local canals are not effective, farmers and other producer groups do not get water for irrigation at the right time and in proper quantity and this is affecting their production negatively.”

Sharda Prasad, farmer, Madaripur

“Farmers and other producer groups have to use pump sets for irrigation. As the price of diesel has increased in the past, the cost of production has also increased and the price of agriculture produce has not increased accordingly. Moreover, due to inefficient irrigation facilities the production is suffering. The effect is even worse for the small and marginal farmers and other producer groups.

The supply of electricity is very irregular and inadequate, it is hardly eight hours a day with no certainty.” 

Rani ji, The President, Self Help Group, Ludhasa

The village roads are in a very bad condition and farmers and other producer groups are facing severe problem due to this. They face problems on daily basis in bringing inputs and carrying their produce to the market/mandis. The situation becomes worse in the rainy season. Likewise, other infrastructural facilities are also inadequate for the development of agriculture and trade related activities in the area.

The village women started selling their produce through small Gumtis (Shops) in the market, but the government machinery, leaving the women helpless, removed these.

Asharfi Lal, Farmer, Kaluapur

“The nearby sugar mill is leaving toxic waste and other pollutants in the canal, which is not only affecting agriculture badly, but also the health and sanitation condition. The government tubewells are very few in number and are benefiting only a few big farmers and other producer groups.

The local mandi is full of brokers and its administration is not taking any action against them. It is a common view in the area that the mandi administration is involved in promoting this illegal activity. In urgency, the farmers and other producer groups have to sell their produce to the brokers at very low rates, as the mandi is not functioning properly and payment from it is often delayed. In effect, farmers and other producer groups get at least Rs 100-200 less than the Minimum Support Price announced by the Government.”

Ajay Pratap Singh, Farmer, Sohariyan

Mandi staff is involved in exploitative and wrong practices while procuring agricultural produce. They are charging extra amount in the name of religious activities/heads on every weighing. The Jute Bag used in packing of the produce is also weighed as one Kilo while weighing.

The Weighing is also not precise, wrong/improper weights are used while weighing. Every time the produce is weighed at least five-six kg less than the actual weight.

Ram Niwas, Farmer, Gulramau

The farmers and other producer groups are aware about the ongoing malpractices, be it in mandis or in seeds/pesticides market, etc. but they alone cannot raise voice against this. There is lack of unity and cooperation among the farmers and other producer groups. The farmers and other producer groups union in the area has tried to solve few problems in the past but all their efforts failed due to lack of support and persistence.

Moreover, good seeds and pesticides are limited and only rich farmers and other producer groups can buy them. Many a times, when the seeds/pesticides fail and farmers suffer a big loss, there is no party to compensate them for this. This makes farming a risky business.

Srimati Nirmala Devi and Ashmai, Chikan Craftwomen, Nathupur and also heading the cluster as President

The chikan and zardosi work has widely spread in the area in the past. However, the work is still provided by the exploitative intermediaries. Intermediaries are eating into more than half of the worker’s remuneration; moreover, they do not make timely payments to the workers. Many a times, they vanish from the area without making any payment to the workers. This is a very big problem for the artisans, majority of whom are women.

Main Issues Identified Based on Participants’ Inputs 

The discussion held during the grassroot meet has been consolidated and classified under appropriate heads.



  • Wheat and rice compete heavily in terms of land for production.
  • Present varieties are not very high yielding. Sugar mills stop procuring some varieties without giving explanation.
  • Inadequate supply of good seeds. Spurious seeds are in supply.
  • Lack of proper infrastructure. Inadequate road, electricity, banks, transportation facilities, etc. are a big problem for the farmers and other producer groups.
  • State is not taking any steps to increase its productivity and make it more competitive in the international market.


  • Great variation in prices, ranging from Rs 675 to Rs 1850.
  • Farmers and other producer groups are unaware of the proper use of various inputs and are thus making imbalanced use of fertilizers, which is affecting their production badly.
  • Capitalisation of rice by big market forces at the cost of rural culture, wisdom, health and product value including biodiversity of the rural community.


  • Roads are in a very poor condition. The villages are not properly connected to the nearby block or highways.
  • Electricity is inadequate and irregular in supply.
  • Transport facilities are meagre.
  • Banks are not lending to the needy, more so they are charging money for every loan sanctioned even on the KCC.
  • Lack of insurance and other safety nets.
  • Lack of Information technology, storage facilities, marketing centers, “women haats”
  • Lack of soil cum seed and other testing technology centre and chilling plants (mini).


  • Mandi staff is involved in exploitative and wrong practices while procuring agricultural produce.
  • The weighing is also not precise. Produce is always weighed less than the actual.
  • The local mandi is full of brokers and its administration is not taking any action against them.
  • The rate of largely produced menthol (peppermint oil) varies drastically. At one point of time, the rate was Rs 2400 per litre, but now it has reduced to only Rs 400 per litre. This is mainly due to pooling by the private buyers who have fixed the rate for menthol.
  • The farmers and other producer groups are selling their produce at the local mandi alone as the roads connecting the area to adjoining big cities are in a bad condition, and also due to the lack of transportation facilities. As local mandi is mismanaged and full of malpractices, farmers and other producer groups are not getting remunerative prices.


  • Market is full of spurious pesticides/insecticides and government has been unable to control the supply of such products.
  • Sale of seeds and pesticides is either below or above MRP.
  • Farmers and other producer groups are often confused by packets/packaging of seeds in packets or boxes.
  • False advertising and which beguiles and bewilders the farmers and other producer groups in making the right choice.
  • Companies and the government do not take responsibility for the consequences suffered by the farmers and other producer groups.
  • Availability of seeds is a problem and they are usually not available on time and in adequate quantities and quality.

Organic farming 

  • As chemicals fertilizers/pesticides etc. pollute the land, reduce soil fertility and are also harmful for humans, the farmers and other producer groups suggested that organic methods for the production should be promoted and chemical fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides and other toxics materials should be reduced.
  • Organic dairying should be promoted.
  • Milking should be done organically.
  • The idea of organic grazing should be explored and promoted.
  • Organic orchards should be promoted to increase production.

Other Areas of Agriculture Diversification

  • Vegetable cultivation should be promoted in the area.
  • Allied agriculture activities like fishery and bee keeping should also be promoted.
  • Cultivation of flowers should be promoted, as there is an increasing market of flowers in big cities.
  • Medicinal and aromatic plants have a huge market and are demanded not only in the local market but also in international market.
  • Production of fruits should be increased. New orchards should be developed.


  • Value added skill upgradation, promoting entrepreneurial skills of artisans, periodic training to artisans to keep them informed about the changes in fashion, market demands, technology, etc.
  • Infrastructural development including training cum production centres.
  • Promoting value chain fair trade campaign.
  • Linkages with fair trade buyers and other market forces directly with the producer groups at local, regional, national and global level.
  • Development of branded products and product recognition.
  • Consumer awareness about the handloom and handicraft products and their importance should be promoted. They should be convinced to buy such products.
  • Fair wages should be fixed for the workers engaged in textile sector. Better working conditions for the workers and a social security system like health/life insurance and provident fund etc.
  • Different groups must come together to sell their products collectively so that the artisans are able to get a fair share in profits. Removal of the intermediaries who take a large part of the products belonging to the artisans/workers.
  • For making the future of the artisans secured, there should be a contract between the producers groups and the traders.
  • A code of conduct must be formulated and followed to ensure fair trade.
  • Extensive promotion of handicrafts must be through media. People must be told about its benefit and harmful effects for example of plastic use.
  • In order to promote handmade items like, jute bags, files, folders etc., government can buy these products for their meetings, conference, workshops etc, just as it buys wheat and rice.
  • Handicraft items must have their own craft mark to ensure quality and originality.
  • There should be a direct communication dialogue between consumers and producers/artisans.
  • Organisations working in this field must form one network so that it facilitates the research or dissemination of information among themselves.
  • No gender bias, religion or caste-based discrimination.
  • No child or bonded labour.
  • Better marketing strategy.
  • Organising exhibitions or trade fairs for displaying and selling such items.
  • Proper survey of demand and selling of such craft.
  • Advertising both by government and the private organisation.
  • Better government policy for promoting export of handicraft.
  • Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to play the role of a catalyst. Network of NGOs for information sharing, information dissemination, and outreach programme should be formed.
  • Regular information dissemination of economic policy issues.
  • Involve as many stakeholders as possible in outreach/organisation.
  • Changes in government procurement policy.
  • Social security nets/social safety measures for the unorganised sector.

The government has been trying to solve the problems existing in the area. The problem related to pumpsets has been solved as government ordered to recruit and post pumpset operators recently. The problem related to infrastructure is a big problem and even PRIs are answerable to this condition. Media representatives present in the meeting assured that they would highlight the problems of the area so as to attract government attention and motivate their action in this regard.