Rice Brings Riches
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-