Seed distribution units sans facilities push cash-strapped farmers to edge
The decision taken by the Centre allowing farmers to use demonetised Rs 500 notes for buying seed from the government-run seed distribution units was of no help due to the lack of infrastructure.
There are only four seed distribution centres of the Central government in Bengal and 26 are run by the state government. The four Central government-run centres are situated at Salt Lake, Siliguri, Midnapore Sadar and Malda.
It caters seed to only a handful number of farmers. Moreover, most of the centres including those of the state government are situated in district headquarters. Thus it is not possible for farmers from nook and corner of a district to travel such a long distance to collect seeds. It leads to a loss of a day’s work.
The Centre was trying to take credit by saying that they have allowed farmers to buy seeds using Rs 500 notes from government-run seed distribution centres. But the fact is that it was of no help to farmers as 30 such centres in a state like Bengal is nothing where there are around 72 lakh farmers, said a source in Nabanna.
At the same time, only a handful number of farmers collect seed from the centres while a major percentage of farmers rely on the government agents to get seed. It is learnt that with demonetisation of notes, most farmers are left with no money of lower denominations and they cannot buy seed and fertilizers. The “poor” state of the farmers ahead of the Rabi season may also lead to scarcity of food grains if the situation doesn’t normalise within the next few weeks.
According to experts, it would have been better if cooperation banks were allowed to take demonetised money from farmers. There are around 5,000 cooperation banks functional in the state. The farmers would have deposited the amount required to buy seed in cooperation banks and later, they would have collected seeds from the agents against the money deposited in the banks. “But the backbone of the agriculture sector has been affected with restriction imposed on the cooperation banks,” the experts mentioned.
Still 30 per cent of paddy is yet to be harvested in the state. It would be a massacre if farmers fail to harvest it due to lack of money. However, the state government is looking into all possible ways to save farmers from such a disaster, sources said.
State agriculture department would write to the special team formed under the leadership of the Chief Secretary in this regard. The team would write to the Centre.
A three-member team from the Centre comprising senior officials visited various places in the state to assess the situation. Two senior officials of the state accompanied them. The Central officials will hold a meeting with the state Chief Secretary on Wednesday.