By- Priyankan Goswami
For a state that earns more than one third of its income from and employs more than 65% workforce in agriculture, all of what is written below based on facts and figures being reported in different media, is disastrous news. Even on the same day when Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi boasted that Economic situation in the state has improved tremendously during the last 11 years of his tenure and that this has dealt a blow to the backbone of the insurgency, the following only shows the very root of militancy in the region. The tea industry is getting into bad shape day by day, tea laborers are dying of poverty and hunger and now, it’s the turn of those farmers cultivating rice.
The woes of the farmer in Assam
A stepmother in FCI (or New Delhi):
As per a survey by North East Social Trust (NEST, Assam had produced 4,007,000 tonnes of rice in the 2009-10 financial year. However the Food Corporation of India (FCI) has procured only 12,146 tonnes, an unbelievably low 0.3% through its procurement centres in Assam during that period.
To make matters really disastrous for the state, the FCI procured around 1,301,485.89 tonnes from other states of India to be sold and distributed in Assam! No, this is not all, – Assam spends a further Rs 30,000,000,000 annually as transportation cost for bringing the food grains from outside states.
Lack of FCI procurement centers:
There is ONLY 11 FCI procurement centers in the whole of Assam, whereas in states such Punjab and Haryana there are procurement centers every 8-10 km. Understandably, Farmers have to commute long distances to sell their rice in these centers which includes transportation and carriage costs, to add to the woes. The 11 procurement centers in the state are at Hojai, Lanka, Nagaon, Roha, Sarupathar, Golaghat, Titabor, Kharupetia, Dhubri, Narayanpur and Barpeta Road.
No Minimum Support Price (MSP):
There is no minimum support price (MSP) fixed for rice and other agricultural produces due to which middlemen are taking advantage of the situation. In fact, the farmers of Assam had to sell their produces at very low price to the middlemen due to lack of MSP. Further worse, Food Corporation of India (FCI) has not fixed the price to buy back the farmers’ produce. In fact, it was found that while a farmer in Assam invests Rs.2,755 in a bigha of land for growing paddy, it yields him only Rs.2,400 due to lack of MSP, monopoly of middlemen and the blind Assam Government ruled by Congress who knows only to create useless schemes to increase political mileage.
The fact above might bring either tear to the eyes or boil up the blood of those few sons and daughters of Assam who still cares for and loves their motherland. As you would understand, the effect on economy is not just about the low sales or profitability for farmers in Assam. The lack of motivation has led thousands of them fall into the trap well laid by Government, – that of buying the BPL or Antordaya rice provided by the government rather than growing paddy and face financial loss. As a result, it’s getting worse day by day. More and more farmers are quitting farming. The new generation is not at all excited towards farming of course. Slowly a state that was (and could still be) self-sufficient is growing to depend on other states for food, a basic necessity.
Whatever genuine reasons the Food Corporation of India may call it, it is impossible to fathom why they would buy only about 0.3% of rice produced in Assam and gets 1,301,485.89 tonnes from other states, letting the State waste thousands of crores of money and making a population depend on other states for food.
India has already seen the rise of Maoists due to the lack of attention given to farmers. India has also seen in Assam the rise of the organisations such as Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) led by Akhil Gogoi who are fighting for rights of the farmers. The pro-talk members of the ULFA are already trying to make a strong foothold within the peasant community by encouraging farming techniques and helping them. If what is happening in Assam with the farmers continue for long, with grievances and hunger multiplying, there won’t be a day far ahead when the peasant uprising would erupt very strong. Not everyone could be bought off by feeding them with less-priced food or by arranging free meals to their children in schools. (Not to mention that it is their teachers who spends all their time cooking these free meals instead of taking classes)
Situation demands that more procurement centres are set up in Assam and a MSP be fixed with immediate effect. In Short, either the Government of India has to stop acting blind to the situation in Assam or a rebellion looks inevitable in near future.