Friday, July 6, 2007

Editorial: Flaws in fertiliser distribution glaring


Flaws in fertiliser distribution glaring
Nachole incident rings with lessons to heed
The violent outbursts of farmers on the heels of an incident centring around collection of fertiliser quota slips from Nachole upazila office has brought to the fore the issue of chronic mismanagement in the distribution of the important input to the agriculturists. In the face of persistent demand for the input, the local administration had arranged to supply authorisation slips to them to collect the stuff from the dealers.

As the slips were being distributed by the sub-assistant agriculture officer to the farmers standing in a queue of 3000 persons, the upazila nirbahi officer (UNO) allegedly intervened objecting to the handing over of the slips under signature from the agricultural officer. The UNO went furious and slapped the officer concerned when he pleaded for the farmers to get a quota of two bags to three farmers instead of one bag allotted to two farmers. This enraged the farmers and what followed was vandalism and riotous behaviour which cannot be condoned even allowing for the state of anxiety they were in to be getting their quota of the input. Yet, what basically triggered the mayhem was the extremely highhanded manner in which the UNO treated the official and the apparent disdain he showed to the farmers by scolding them. Such behaviour from government officials dealing with the public is highly condemnable.

On the same day, Andulbaria union at Chuadanga was reportedly besieged by farmers protesting availability of 180 bags of urea as against the demand for 2000 bags.

The government has been consistently asserting that the stocks are sufficient and there is no fertiliser crisis as such. Whilst stocks are good, a crisis may still emanate from a flawed distribution system which seems to have been the case here. What is crystal clear is that over the years we have failed to evolve any effective distribution network as far as making agricultural inputs available to the farmers on time and in adequate quantities goes. The dealers' appointments were largely partisan and they have been averse to any notion of fixed prices. The rationing of fertiliser may have been in part prompted by the apprehension that it might be smuggled into neighbouring countries where the fertiliser prices are higher than ours.

All this calls for making public the overall stock position with district wise breakup in a bid to remove any possible misgiving in the public mind about portents of any fertiliser crisis developing. Such a move must necessarily be accompanied by putting a fair distribution mechanism in place.

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