Grassroots Reachout & Networking in India on Trade & Economics (GRANITE)
West Bengal Sixth Outreach Meeting
Malda District, West Bengal
June 27, 2006
CUTS Calcutta Resource Centre (CUTS CRC), in collaboration with Chanchal Jana Kalyan Samity, (CJKS), Malda organised the sixth Outreach meeting at Chanchal, Malda district West Bengal on June 27, 2006. The participants were mainly local farmers. Debottam Chakraborty and Sumanata Biswas from CUTS-CRC and Manindranath Roy Krishi Prajukti Sahayak facilitated the meeting. The farmers actively took part in the meeting and interacted with the participants on various local agricultural issues.
The objectives of the Outreach Meeting were to get an insight into the concerns of the local farmers regarding their livelihood and gather information about the opportunities and threats in the era of globalisation and free trade.
Methodology of the Outreach Meeting
The meeting was organised in collaboration of CJKS, a reputed non-governmental organisation (NGO) working on Family Health Counseling, Reproductive Child Health (RCH),
Dipak Chakraborty, Secretary, CJKS, took interest in GRANITE activities and participated most of the programme under GRANITE in the first year. CJKS organised this meeting in the meeting room of the BDO office at Chancal.
The farmers from local villages participated in the meeting, which included representatives of the civil society organisations (CSOs) from Uttar Dinajpur and Dakshin Dinajpur districts, local media correspondents of popular Bengali dailies and local government officials, mainly involved with the farmers’ problems.
Discussion in the Meeting at Chanchal
Debottam Chakraborty of CUTS Calcutta Resource Centre (CUTS CRC) briefed the project activities carried out under the GRANITE project highlighting the grassroots level impact of the WTO and globalisation.
The interaction started with the discussion about local agricultural produce. The farmers informed that paddy, vegetable and jute are the main crops of the region. Three main types of rice i.e. Aman, Aush, and Boro are produced along with hybrid varieties. Now-a-days, while jute is becoming less profitable, and the farmers are concentrating on sericulture in the off season.
A wide variety of vegetables are being grown in the region. Debottam Chakraborty informed that the soil is not very productive for fruit production.
Manindranath Roy informed that the government is promoting the hybrid varieties of rice in parts of land where the indigenous varieties are not cultivable. This is mainly for the purpose of catering to the higher market demand in recent years.
Because seeds supplied by the government department are inadequate in comparison to the demand the farmers are forced to buy seeds at a higher price from the market. Majority of the farmers do not have their own seed preserving infrastructure.
In fact, the farmers use chemical fertilisers as per the instruction of the shopkeepers from where they buy it. Sometime the representatives of the fertiliser companies, who are present at the shops, instruct farmers on the use of those fertilizers. Farmers complained that on the labels no instruction is available regarding the methods of using those fertilisers. Due to the lack of right instruction, farmers misuses often fall sick the misuse. Manindranath Roy replied that now it is mandatory to mention the methods of application and its harmful effects on the label. But it is also true that many local producers are not obeying this rule. So, it should be the duty of the farmers to identify them and inform the concerned authority.
On the question from the farmers, who urged the necessity of training facilities on the use of the fertilisers and pesticides and other farming techniques that are not available, Manindranath Roy replied that due to fund constraint it is not possible to train each and every farmer. Government generally tries to involve different categories of farmers from different regions. It is expected that the training will be disseminated through the farmers in the region.
It was informed by the farmers that the due to rise in the fuel charges, the irrigation cost has increased by almost three times. They are now trying to substitute kerosene oil in place of diesel or petrol. On the one hand it is affecting the longevity of the machines and on the other hand the pump sets are becoming less efficient with the use of kerosene.
Regarding the soil testing, Manindranath Roy informed that the sample of soil is sent to the district town and the officials send the report within three/four months. However, for inadequate infrastructure they may take a little more time.
Farmers complained that the fertility of the soil has been reduced over last 20/25 years by at least 40 percent. At this, Manindranath Roy replied that it is happening due to unscientific manner of using fertilisers and pesticides.
Then, the technique of rain fed harvesting was discussed at length. The CSOs, present in the meeting, strongly believe that the technique implemented successfully in Rajasthan, could also be made popular in West Bengal. But Manindranath Roy informed that the though West Bengal Government has not yet thought about this, he will certainly discuss with his seniors regarding this.
On the problem of jute cultivation, farmers were of the opinion that the production cost for cultivation and processing could not be recovered by the profit margin. Manindranath Roy explained that it is advisable to process the jute in slow moving water. However, due to unavailability of the water the farmers are forced to take other options, which affect the quality of jutes, which in turn reduces the market price. Countering his argument, farmers said that they are capable of judging the quality of jute and can calculate the possible market price as well.
It was informed that now-a-days sericulture is better option than jute. During the last two years, the market has been expanded and price of sericulture products is also rising at the local markets. The training facility from the government department is also better in this case.
It was informed that farmers generally sell their produce in the local market, but beyond that level they are dependent on large businessmen. Storage facility is very poor at the region. Manindranath Roy informed that the storage facilities are being expand in remote areas.
Women take part in all sorts of farming activities but it has been observed that they suffer wage discrimination.
Regarding crop insurance, farmers mentioned that the collateral contribution of farmers under the schemes is very high and farmers cannot really afford that. Manindranath Roy informed that it is really a problem for the farmers and governments should introduce some farmers’ friendly schemes in this case.
The discussion highlighted the following points:
- Inadequate government support viz. supply of timely and good quality seeds, training of modern farming techniques, control on the quality of seeds available in the market, soil testing etc.
- Government should give an in-depth thought regarding rain-fed harvesting technique.
- Government should make the crop insurance facilities more people-friendly.