Thursday, July 5, 2007

Fertiliser hungry farmers ransack UNO office

Fertiliser hungry farmers ransack UNO office

Aggrieved at the scanty supply of fertiliser, farmers vandalised the UNO office at Nachole, set fire to the furniture and documents and injured the UNO (inset) in Chapainawabganj yesterday. PHOTO: Focus Bangla
Fertiliser hungry farmers ransack UNO office
Clashes erupt over improper distribution at Nachole; 10 including UNO injured

Thousands of fertiliser deprived farmers of Nachole upazila in Chapainawabganj yesterday damaged the upazila parishad office and torched its furniture and documents in a desperate rage against the local authorities' mismanagement in distributing the essential agricultural input.

Ten persons including Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Monjur Morshed, Upazila Agriculture Officer Abul Kalam Azad, Upazila Monitoring Officer of the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) Asaduzzman, and a farmer Abdul Latif were injured during the one-hour wildcat protest.

The scene was almost a déjà vu to some of the incidents that had taken place during the famous peasant uprising of 1949-50 in the same area, which got itself etched permanently in the history of the people's struggle of not only this country but the entire subcontinent.

Manjur Morshed was hospitalised in Chapainawabganj town while Abul Kalam Azad, Saidur Rahman, Asaduzzaman, and Abdul Latif were admitted to the upazila health complex yesterday.

Our Chapainawabganj correspondent reported that the trouble began around 11:00am when UNO Manjur Morshed intervened into an ongoing pre-planned fertiliser distribution event among queued up farmers in the upzila parishad compound and assaulted one of the agriculture department staff while hurling expletives towards the fertiliser seeking farmers, said sources in the joint forces, police and the local administration.

Enraged by the UNOs outright arrogance the farmers entered different office rooms, including those of the UNO, agriculture officer and the engineer, and damaged furniture and documents.

Later the rampaging farmers piled up the damaged furniture and office documents at a corner in front of the UNO's office and set fire to them.

Some farmers who took part in the spontaneous rampage said they were already getting angry because the authorities had not been distributing enough fertiliser to meet their requirements.

Official sources said there is no fertiliser crisis in Nachole upazila. They said 900 metric tons of fertiliser had been allocated for the upazila to meet a demand for 788 metric tons during the current crop season, and there is still a stock of additional 200 metric tons for the upcoming ropa season.

The farmers however alleged that they have been suffering from an acute fertiliser crisis as they could not get the required quantity of it even after waiting for more than three days in queues.

Our staff correspondent from Khulna reported that different districts of the south-western region have been in the grip of an acute urea crisis for the last two weeks.

Meanwhile, at a news briefing last evening Press Secretary to the Chief Adviser Syed Fahim Munaim said they will know whether there is a fertiliser crisis, and if there is one whether it is genuine or an artificial one, only after proper authorities make field level visits and submit their report on the matter.

According to eyewitnesses of yesterday's Nachole incident, about 3000 farmers had been waiting in several long queues for urea since early morning.

Government officials started distributing the fertiliser through issuing coupons among the waiting farmers from four posts in the upazila parishad compound.

The inevitable hullabaloo that accompanies such a large gathering brought the UNO out of his office, and he asked his officials to halt the distribution. Soon he himself took over the responsibility of issuing coupons from only one post, giving the waiting farmers another reason to get angrier.

At one stage, the UNO slapped Deputy Assistant Agriculture Officer Saidur Rahman because he advised the boss to distribute the coupons from more than four posts instead of curtailing the number of them. The UNO was also hurling expletives to the waiting farmers numbering in thousands by then, igniting the wick of the revolt.

The farmers became furious and started beating the UNO bringing him down to the ground.

Then the protestors started to beat up other officials present, prompting them to take cover in their office rooms in vain, as the mob of farmers chased after them into the office rooms.

An hour later, the joint forces rushed to the scene and brought the situation under control. Additional policemen were deployed in the area to prevent further untoward incidents.

Deputy Commissioner (DC) Shahadat Hossain, Superintendent of Police Mokhlesur Rahman, and Deputy Director of DAE Asim Kumar Malakar also rushed to the scene.

Instantly, they along with the upazila administration and 10 representatives from the farmers held an emergency meeting. The DC said the meeting was held to find out whether there was any flaw in the distribution system of the fertiliser, adding that there is no crisis of it in the district. He also said proper actions will be taken against any government official found to be neglecting duties.

The DC formed a three-member probe committee led by the additional district magistrate, the other two members of which are the deputy director of DAE, and the additional police super. The DC asked the committee to submit its report within the next 24 hours.

The district administration officials told reporters that the ongoing fertiliser distribution will resume again this morning remedying the flaws in the distribution system.

Nachole saw a raging peasant uprising in 1949-50 against the oppressions brought on them by the erstwhile class of jotedars in the area, resulting in a legislation banning certain types of oppressions on the peasants.

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