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

West Bengal Fifth Outreach Meeting
Uttar Dinajpur District, West Bengal, August 26, 2005

CUTS Calcutta Resource Centre (CUTS-CRC), in collaboration with Islampur Ramkrishnapally Rural Welfare Society (IRRWS), a reputed non-governmental organisation (NGO) working in Uttar Dinajpur district of West Bengal organised the fifth outreach meeting at town hall of Islampur, Uttar Dinajpur district, West Bengal, on August 26, 2005. Among the participants were  the local farmers, which included P Ghosh, Deputy Magistrate and M C Das, Agricultural Development Officer (ADO) of Islampur.


The objective of the meeting was to understand the concerns of the farmers regarding their livelihoods and to gather knowledge about the opportunities and threats, as they perceive in the era of globalisation.


The meeting was held in collaboration with IRRWS, a reputed civil society organisation (CSO) working for community development in that region.

A A Parvez, Secretary and Mokhtar Hussain, President of IRRWS organised the meeting in association with CUTS-CRC. The participants were approximately 25 in number.

Meeting at Islampur

  • P Ghosh, Deputy Magistrate, Uttar Dinajpur welcomed all the participants and appreciated the initiative to reach out to the grassroots level. He stressed that the government and the farmers should jointly combat the present threats faced by the agricultural sector in West Bengal. He explained the importance of crop insurance to minimise the risk of crop failure due to natural calamities.
  • M C Das, in his address, mentioned that Islampur is basically a rice-producing region. He emphasised farmers to grow some seasonal crops like jute and vegetables.
  • M C Das emphasised the necessity of soil testing for better yield informing that application of fertilizers in untested soil may adversely affect cultivation. He elaborated that the chemicals present in the fertilizers sometimes form compounds with the minerals, present in the soil as nutrients. Thus, many useful minerals become unavailable for the plants and cause hindrance to the proper growth of the plants. He also discussed the soil-borne diseases, which are harmful for the plants. He explained the utility of cultivation of leguminous plants, which are capable of fixing aerial nitrogen into the soil thereby increasing its fertility.
  • M C Das expressed his faith on the recent high yielding variety (HYV) of seeds, which are capable of giving much better produce compared to the indigenous varieties. He advised farmers to use the registered/certified variety of seeds only. He stated that rise in population requires increased production of food crops, which can be provided only through the use of HYVs.
  • Jute being widely cultivated in monsoon, the season when the Outreach was conducted, the discussion was mostly centred on the problems related to jute cultivation. Cultivation of jute assured handsome return within a stipulated time (120 days), the farmers were attracted towards its cultivation. He also discussed some advance techniques of jute cultivation. However, the farmers expressed their doubts regarding the practical feasibility of such techniques.
  • Debottam Chakraborty from CUTS-CRC initiated the discussion on behalf of CUTS and explained the expected outcomes from the meeting. The participants actively took part in the conversation and shared their views and concerns.
  • One of the major problems, shared by the farmers, is lack of water for retting the jute plants. This problem often forced the farmers to postpone harvesting time, and as a result the quality of jute got deteriorated.
  • Besides jute, the farmers also cultivated mustard, paddy & wheat in addition to beetle leaf cultivation. They informed that the market for wheat is less volatile compared to jute. But the production of wheat in this area is not so significant.
  • The farmers have to irrigate their lands using pumps. Unlike the practice prevailing in the southern part of West Bengal, the farmers in Uttar Dinajpur give a share of their harvest for getting water for irrigation instead of giving cash. Due to increase in fuel costs this share has also increased.
  • The participants complained about the attitude of the officers of Jute Corporation of India Ltd. (JCI). It is reluctant in timely procurement of raw jute from the farmers and in addition, it often fails to procure the total amount of jute. Thus, the farmers are forced to sell their produce to the middlemen who buy jute at a lesser price than the price fixed by the government. These middlemen have the financial capacity to hoard the product and sell it when JCI starts buying jute again.
  • The farmers accepted that they are incapable of determining the quality of jute they produce. For grading their jute, the farmers mainly depended on the officers of JCI or the middlemen. A need for training, for determination of quality of jute, is put forward by the farmers.
  • Regarding the blockage of institutional credit, the participants showed differences of opinion. They accepted that high default cases regarding the bank loan were responsible for the present situation. But at the same time, they put forward the incapability of the bank field officers in assessing the recovery chances of a credit provided.


The discussion with farmers of Uttar Dinajpur highlighted the following issues:

  • There is a necessity of increasing the awareness level of the farmers regarding the existing crop insurance schemes;
  • Soil testing should be conducted to put a check on the unnecessary use of fertilizers;
  • Awareness campaigns as well as hands on training are required for the farmers on new technology of jute cultivation. This will clear the doubts of the farmers regarding feasibility of the new techniques;
  • JCI should ensure the timely procurement of jute in substantial amount, so that the benefit of the minimum support price for jute reaches the actual producers; and
  • The farmers should have a thorough knowledge of grade of jute produced.