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

West Bengal Seventh Outreach Meeting
Purulia District, West Bengal, September 07, 2006

CUTS Calcutta Resource Centre (CUTS CRC), in collaboration with Professional Assistance for Development Support (PRADAN) and the Office of Agricultural Development Officer (ADO) of Jhalda organised seventh Outreach Meeting at Jhaldal, Purulia district of West Bengal on September 07, 2006. Debottam Chakraborty from CUTS CRC participated in the meeting. Partha Ghosh, ADO of Jhalda actively took part in the meeting and interacted with the participants on various local agricultural issues.

Objective

The objective of the Outreach Meeting was to get an insight into the concerns of the local farmers regarding their livelihood, including opportunities and threats in the era of globalisation and free trade.

Methodology

The Outreach Meeting was organised in collaboration with PRADAN, a NGO working in Purulia district, West Bengal, on water shed management, micro credit, and different agricultural issues by forming different women Self-Help Groups (SHGs) at the village level. PRADAN took interest in activities under the GRANITE project and participated in the launch meeting.

The farmers from local villages participated in the Outreach Meeting, which also include representatives of the civil society organisations (CSOs) and local government official, involved with the farmers’ in their daily problems.

Discussion in the Outreach Meeting

Debottam Chakraborty of CUTS CRC introduced CUTS and briefed the project activities under GRANITE. He also highlighted the grassroots impact of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and globalisation.

The interaction started with the discussion about general features of Purulia. It was mentioned that Purulia is a drought prone region, and completely different from other parts of West Bengal. It was also informed that in the soil of Purulia, there is a general deficiency of Potash.

Due to less productivity, the indigenous varieties of rice (like boro), has been replaced by various High Yielding Varieties (HYV). In addition, indigenous varieties of rice could not be produced in all categories of land. Hence, its production is falling. The ADO informed that, for the HYV cultivation, chemical fertiliser is required. But due to excessive use of chemical fertiliser, productivity is falling. He said that the only solution for maintaining productivity level is to use mixture of organic manure with chemical fertiliser.

Due to usage of tractor in the field, farmers are not rearing cows or bulls. So, stocks of organic manure is declining in the region, which is one of the reason for the over use of chemical fertilisers now-a-days.

It was mentioned that the Laksha cultivation was famous in Purulia. But due to lack of proper government policy, this sector could not develop adequately. Kusum, Kul, Palash and Babla are the four main trees under Laksha cultivation. But the farmers did not get any help from the forest department for cultivating these trees although the climate in Purulia is suitable for its cultivation. The non-availability and high price of seeds for the cultivation of these trees are one of the major problems. The farmers in certain areas are trying to develop their own seeds.

In Purulia, the land is divided into four classes. The upland is called tar in local language. Here no water is stored. Next comes bide (medium upland). In between these two, there is another class called bari jami (home state land). It is actually the residential area. The next class of land is called kanali. In this class, water retention capacity is more than bide but less than bahal (the low land). From bahal the water goes to the river. Paddy is mainly cultivated in bide, kanali and bahal. In tar, boro rice is cultivated at a few places. So, it was pointed out that the process of irrigation has to be different for different categories of land.

There are three types of irrigation processes practiced in Purulia; first, the lift irrigation, in 1975-76, there were 103 lift irrigation systems in Purulia, but today, 88 are out of order and government takes no initiatives to repair them; the second is irrigation through dams on the river; and the third method is by digging wells.

Inadequate supply of fertilisers was pointed out during the discussion. It is mainly due to higher demand for certain types of fertilisers in certain year for several reasons like rainfalls etc. There is no initiative from the government to revive the situation.

The soil testing facility is well developed in the region. The soil is tested in the local laboratory on a regular basis and farmers are advised on farming practices, as per the test result.

The farmers informed that due to high price of the spraying machines, pesticides could not be sprayed in the plants when they catch diseases. ADO present in the meeting informed that the government is supplying spray machines at 50 percent subsidy. The farmers need to apply to ADO regarding that and then accordingly he can arrange the distribution of spraying machines among farmers.

The participants informed that although the region is well connected through train farmers are facing problems due to lack of storage facility in the region. As a result, intermediaries are making profits. Again at the current level of production, cold storage may not be viable. So there was a suggestion that once this infrastructure is in place, the production will automatically increase, which in turn, will make the infrastructure project viable.

It was mentioned that the farmers should have access to the System for Rice Intensification (SRI) technique. Campaign should be launched to popularise this scientific concept to raise the production and they should be trained accordingly. The water supply should also be made sufficiently elastic in terms of timing to implement this technique. It was also recommended that the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) training should be provided adequately.

Horticulture has a big prospect in Purulia. This year, the horticulture department has distributed the plants of mango, guava and cashews, but they have not provided any technical support to the farmers. The ADO mentioned that it is mainly because the horticulture department do not have good network in the district with only one district office and no block office. Other problems in horticulture like lack of capital, long gestation period, problem of staple crops (in case while cultivating fruits) were also discussed. In Purulia, tar and bide lands are suitable for fruit cultivation, in which less water is required. But due to lack of proper government policy and support, horticulture could not be developed.

Regarding medicinal plants in Purulia, the ADO informed that the companies are collecting the plants from forest freely. So, it is not fruitful for the farmers to cultivate this, since there will be hardly any market for that. For preservation of those plants, there was no government effort yet.

The farmers informed that the crop insurance schemes are not very transparent. Many times they are not paid properly by the companies. They urged that that government should make the process transparent for the farmers.

Conclusions

The discussion highlighted the following points:

  • Adequate government support is required in the areas such as training on modern farming techniques, water harvesting, timely supply of fertilisers, flexible access of funds from banks etc.
  • Government should arrange the training on Laksha cultivation technique for the local farmers.
  • Government should make the crop insurance facilities more people-friendly.

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