TODAY -

Some woes of farmers of Manipur and measures to mitigate them

Oinam Nabakishore Singh *

Manipuri Women hard at work at a Paddy field planting the rice sometime in the 3rd week of June 2010
Women planting rice at a Paddy Field :: June 2010



The most important crop of Manipur, paddy, is cultivated in Kharif season, when monsoon rain brings heavy downpour. This year, after devastating floods in June-July, 2018, which destroyed paddy just after transplantation, farmers somehow worked hard to replant paddy in the flood affected areas after flood receded. Now, when paddy plants are on the verge of flowering and fruitification, rain has been missing for a pretty long time. In many fields without irrigation, plants are drying up.

It is a really painful sight to see the images of green paddy plants turning yellowish on the cracked soils devoid of moisture. Farmers are seen lamenting over the possible loss of crops, hard work, investment and facing a gloomy year without rice to meet familyís requirement of grains. In many instances, farmers are tenants and they have the obligation of giving the landlord annual rent in kind or cash(Loushal).

The Government of India has a crop insurance scheme, Prime Ministerís FasalBimaYojna(PMFBY), to compensate the farmers in the event of loss of crops due to natural calamities. The premium to be paid by the farmer is only 2% for Kharif, 1.5% for Rabi crops, 5% for commercial and horticultural crops, while the rest of the premium is to be paid by the Government. If the farmers in Manipur are assured under PMFBY, the headache of the farmers on account of loss of crop due to flood or drought can be taken care of.

The officials especially extension staff in the state agriculture department have an obligation to make farmers aware of the crop insurance programme and get them covered by paying a small amount of premium. While I worked as Principal Secretary of state agriculture department in 2009, I got a large number of farmers covered by the then crop insurance scheme. Targets for each sub-division and block is required to be fixed right at the beginning of Kharif or Rabi season. The officials of agriculture department cannot afford to sit back and do nothing for the welfare of farmers. From the next cropping season, officials and staff of agriculture need to take a pledge to implement all programme of Government in both letter and spirit.

Every year, we also get to see farmers facing the problems of shortage of chemical fertilizers, especially, subsidized, urea. Urea is a controlled item- fixed quantity for Kharif and Rabi seasons is allocated to the state indicating the linkages for supply and supply schedule. Till 2009, when I was Principal Secretary of Agriculture, dealers of chemical fertilizers appointed by the producers or distributors of urea had the responsibility of lifting it from the premises of manufacturers or distributors and stock it in their respective local godowns.

Apex Marketing Co-operative Society, being a dealer of urea, too played an important role in lifting of urea, stocking it in itsgodowns at Chingmeirong. The entire logistics arrangement like deploying own trucks or hiring truck for transportation from outside the state, dealing with illegal tax collection enroute, storage, financing the cost of urea, etc. were the responsibility of the dealers. Sometimes, the suppliers and manufacturers had problems in meeting the schedule of delivery due to short production or diversion to other places.

In such cases, the officials of agriculture department had to monitor and interact with concerned executives of companies and Ministry of Fertilizer, Government of India to ensure delivery of urea as per allocation and schedule. By and large, the dealers were able to meet full requirement of farmers. Only complaint received relate to smuggling of urea to Myanmar and charging higher prices by dealers. To check such malpractices, the agriculture department used to fix price of farmer slightly higher than the MRP considering the additional cost due to illegal tax enroute and additional cost due to transportation to remote places.

From 2010, the agriculture department of Manipur took upon itself the responsibility of bringing urea from suppliers outside the state and started distributing it to the farmers. This arrangement may not be the best as the efficiency of government sector in providing goods and services is less than that of the private sector. Over the years, governments-central and states, have been gradually withdrawing from doing business directly. The role of the government in many areas, where private sector can perform better, is recognized to be facilitation and regulation.

Now, the state government entrusts the job of bringing urea to transporters selected through tendering. Since it is imperative to award the contract to lowest bidder, there is risk of ending up with contractors who may not have sufficient resources to perform the task. Besides, on financial side, adequate budgetary support and expenditure sanction is required, which is time consuming. There are several unpredictable risks like land slide, bandhs and blockades, which hamper transportation of urea.

There is a need for reviewing the decision to transport urea by agriculture department and revert back to allowing dealers of urea to participate in transportation and distribution of urea. The government may compensate them for additional expenses incurred on account of illegal taxes and high cost of transportation.

Manipurís paddy cultivation is almost entirely dependent on rain. Whenever, there is deficiency in rainfall and uneven distribution of rain in time and space, crops, mainly paddy grown in hills and valleys face uncertainty of good harvest. I have seen this in 2009, when I was Principal Secretary of agriculture department. When there was drought-like situation, the Government immediately procured pump sets and distributed to a few villages. But, the number of pump sets and sources of water was few and far between.

Therefore, distribution of pumps sets does not solve the larger problem. Ultimately, it is the rain, which can come to the rescue of farmers. This year, 2018 saw a long spell of no rain when the paddy plants are about to begin flowering. To mitigate the problem, like in previous years, agriculture department rushed to procure diesel pump sets for distribution to farmers. This intervention is too little to solve the problem.

We are required to look at alternative sources of water and dependable way of making water reach each and every field at the time of need. While state government has been struggling with a few major, medium and multipurpose projects, actual benefit of irrigation very much less than what is envisaged. Although Khuga Multipurpose project has been commissioned, the benefit of irrigation is yet to be available as last mile channels are not completed. It is high time that we take a fresh look at new source of water and new system of irrigation.

In Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab, ground water is used extensively for irrigation by using tube wells. We see these states taking crops round the year, one after the another. Why not we use ground water? In fact, water table in most of the places in Manipur is very high-water is available after digging of 4-5 feet in the ground. Either by digging open well or boring tube well, one can pump out water for irrigation of adjoining fields throughout the year.

It should be possible to introduce irrigation by pumping out ground water, which is frequently recharged by rain. River lift irrigation is also a viable option for irrigating nearby fields. Minor irrigation department of Manipur have installed diesel pumps at several riversides. Even though they are used successfully for some time, many of them have problems of poor maintenance. Minor irrigation department needs to allocate sufficient funds for maintenance.

The most viable option for irrigating each and every field is to create small farm ponds. There are many models-individual pond for individual farm/field or slightly bigger farm pond to meet irrigation requirement of contiguous farms. After creation of farm pond, the next step is installation of water pump and creation of water channels or laying overground pipelines for delivery of water.Farmers in many states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, etc. use solar panels to generate electricity to power pumps-over ground or submersible.

In these states, the government provide subsidy upto 90% of the cost of solar panels, pump and cost of installation while farmer bear only 10%. Combination of farm pond and solar powered water pump can ensure availability of water for irrigation throughout the year. It is learnt that a few such solar powered pumps have been installed in Manipur. It needs to be expanded to cover all the farms in both hills and plains. Once water is available, possibilitiesof growing different crops-grains,oilseeds, maize, horticultural crops, etc., round the year will be possible.

Farmers will no longer have to worry about vagaries of rain. Such steps will help in moving towards the target of doubling farmersí income. The state government may have to take up this in mission mode to reach out to each and every farmer. In case the grid lines are connected to the farms/fields, solar installations will become another source of power to be fed in to the grid and source of income for the farmers from power generated.

A coordinated effort of agriculture, horticulture and power departments will go a long way to create irrigation capacity for every field, to increase farmersí income by multiple cropping, generate additional power and empower the farmers. Being a largely agricultural economy, the interest of farmers should be uppermost in the priorities of policy makers.


Views expressed are personal.


* Oinam Nabakishore Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on 23 October , 2018 .


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