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Kishore Talukdar
Date of Publish: 2019-02-03

Majheli Char farmers demand subsidised quality seeds for steady supply of winter vegetables to Guwahati and Shillong

Highlights:

  • Poor quality seeds and late distribution of seeds affecting production and income of farmers of Majheli Char, a sand isle of the river Brahmaputra
  • Majheli Char supplies 40 qunitals of winter vegetables daily to Guwahati and Shillong markets

 

Supply of poor quality seeds and late distribution of seeds by Assam Agriculture Department have affected production and income of farmers of Majheli Char, one of the buffer zones of winter vegetables for markets in Guwahati and Shillong, the affected farmers alleged.

Located in the heart of the river Brahmaputra, Majheli Char supplies over 40 quintals of winter vegetables daily that include cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brinjal and various leafy vegetables to the markets in these two capital cities. About 15 km off Guwahati, this sand isle spreads over 2661 Bigha (7.5 Bigha equals 1 Hectare) land.

Photo - Nirendra Prashad Rabha

“We are dependent on farming. When the crop fails, we suffer heavy losses. If government is truly serious in linking our farming activities with market demands then it must ensure supply of quality seeds,” says Ghanashyam Das (45), a local farmer. Das says that many farmers, affected by crop failure due to poor quality seeds and late distribution of seeds, have lost hope in farming even though farming is the ancestral legacy for all of them.

The farmers alleged they have suffered losses in mustard farming this year due to poor quality seeds supplied by the government. However, some plots under the supplied seed have produced satisfactory crops.

“My plot under mustard farming has not produced any fruit. Worse still, such mustard known as jenglai cannot be sold as vegetables,” Harbilash Das (69) alleged.

Photo - Nirendra Prashad Rabha

Echoing the concern over crop failure, Pradip Das, another farmer insists, ““Government should refrain from providing such poor-quality seeds, because farming with such seed is sheer wastage of labour and capital,”

However, agriculture department sources said of the “two varieties of mustard seeds distributed to the farmers, one variety seemed to have failed.” “Seeds of mustard like MP 26 variety has failed. This variety weighing two quintals were distributed among the farmers, department sources said.

The farmers alleged that crops of broccoli, chilly and tomato also failed on several plots due to spurious seeds. Besides, late distribution of seeds also make matter worse sometimes, they say.

“Timing matters the most in farming. If we fail to initiate tilling in time, return will be minimal,” says Tapan Kakoti (40) cultivates on a 10-bigha plot. Kakoti says the farmers can gradually come to terms in the event of natural calamity-triggered damage. However, “the damage caused by government’s negligence” shatters them.

Photo - Nirendra Prashad Rabha

Flood also plays havoc on the plots under brinjal farming, a favourite crop among the farmers of the Char. The farmers have suffered heavy losses due to flood damage in September.

To get bumper harvest the farmers are required to plant the brinjal sapling in the first week of September. Pradip Das earned over Rs 2 lakh from his 3-bigha plot under brinjal cultivation last year but suffered loss this year. Area under brinjal cultivation is over 80 bigha in this char which help the brinjal farmers earn over Rs 32 lakh every year.

The farmers say that they can raise the earnings if quality seed is supplied to them by the government at subsidised rates. They do not have to worry about the market demands as agri produces from Char Majheli sell like hot cakes.

Most family members are involved in farming practice and which the farmers say is one of their major strengths.

Ghanashym Das’s octogenarian mother Damayanti Das and his sister Sangita play equal part in farming activities to ensure optimal return. “We do everything from tilling to harvesting and it is a collective effort,” say Das’s mother and sister.

Photo - Nirendra Prashad Rabha

The Char has about 200 Bigha of land under cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli. Of the two char areas - Naheli Char, Majheli Char, the latter is prone to flood. If flood hits the char in July and August, the farmers face little damage. But if flood occurs in the last part of September, farmers suffer heavy losses.

For the farmers the day starts in the wee hours as early as around 3 am. Braving the bone-chilling cold in winter and fury of summer of the Brahmaputra, they cross the river by country boat. After day-long harvesting they come back carrying crops on shoulder. They take 2 km difficult walk from their field to the either side of the char banks.

The farmers of Char Majheli have demanded timely distribution of quality seeds on subsidised rates by the government to keep their hopes of a better life alive.

Kishore Talukdar

( Kishore Talukdar is an independent journalist based in Guwahati. His areas of interest include Development journalism and Environment journalism. He can be contacted at tdrkishore@gmail.com)

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