Rice Brings Riches

India Today - - THE STATE OF THE STATES -

Rice pro­duc­tiv­ity in As­sam has picked up af­ter years of stag­nancy. From 1,349 kg per hectare in 2006-07, pro­duc­tiv­ity jumped to 1,969 kg per hectare in 2010-11. While to­tal food­grain pro­duc­tion in the state in 2010-11 was 52.31 lakh met­ric tonnes, rice pro­duc­tion was as high as 50.86 lakh met­ric tonnes, a 15.4 per cent in­crease over the cor­re­spond­ing fig­ure in 2009-10. It el­e­vated the state to eighth rank among all rice pro­duc­ing states.

Chief Min­is­ter Tarun Gogoi puts his money where his mouth is when he says, “I don’t care if in­dus­tri­al­ists come to set up plants in As­sam or not, but I want the farm­ers to be­come more in­dus­tri­ous.” Gogoi’s dis­tri­bu­tion of mos­quito nets and blan­kets to poor farm­ers in March 2011 was panned by the Op­po­si­tion as an elec­tion gim­mick but he jus­ti­fies it. “Poor farm­ers are af­fected more by malaria and com­mon cold than any other dis­ease. If one is not well, how can one be pro­duc­tive? These are pre­ven­tive ways aimed at ca­pac­ity build­ing. You don’t need big schemes but small steps to trans­form vil­lage eco- nomics,” says Gogoi.

Bipul Choud­hury, 38, a farmer from Bha­laguri in Bar­peta district, gets sub­sidised seeds from the govern­ment and a 30 per cent sub­sidy for a trac­tor. The hy­brid va­ri­ety of rice has in­creased yield from his five­bigha farm that he owns from 1,500 kg to 2,500 kg this year. “Ear­lier, I had to hire water pumps to ir­ri­gate the land. With diesel prices soar­ing, farm­ing had be­come al­most im­pos­si­ble,” says Choud­hury. The govern­ment-spon­sored water sup­ply has al­lowed him to stop wor­ry­ing about ir­ri­gat­ing his land. Gogoi calls it hu­man in­ter­ven­tion and cred­its it for the higher yield in farm­ing in the state. “It is not that the area un­der agri­cul­ture has in­creased. Im­proved ac­cess to qual­ity seeds, fer­tilis­ers, in­sec­ti­cides, pes­ti­cides, farm equip­ment, tech­ni­cal knowhow, each had a role in in­creas­ing both pro­duc­tion and pro­duc­tiv­ity in the state,” he says.

The bureau­cracy re­mains a hur­dle. “Govern­ment help comes, but it re­quires sev­eral vis­its to the of­fi­cials con­cerned,” com­plains Choud­hury. The govern­ment has in­tro­duced sev-

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