After FDI in retail and Lokpal Bill, the UPA government is likely to face opposition from its partner Trinamool Congress (TC) on the issue of pricing of fertilizer. The West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has recently shot off a letter to the Centre demanding a review of the fertilizer policy.
In her letter she has stressed the need for a regulatory mechanism so that the government can intervene as and when the situation demands. The state government is yet to receive a response to that. But, according to senior officials of the state administration, the chief minister is seriously contemplating of pursuing it with the Centre.
As a direct impact of the decontrol in fertilizer market (only Urea is still under control) the prices of commonly used fertilizers have now increased manifolds. A comparison of prices of fertilizers’ MRPs prior to April 1, 2010 and as on December 11, 2011 shows that there has been 114% increase in the price of DAP, 154% in the case of MOP, 75% in SSP’s price and 77% in the price of Boronated SSP. The prices of different grades of Complex Fertilizers (N: P: K: S) have also increased exponentially, from 111% to 163%. Only the price of Urea, the most commonly used fertilizer, has recorded a nominal increase of 11%, as it is still kept under control.
This year Bengal has a bumper crop of paddy (around 15 million quintal) in the kharif season.
The state government has decided to procure 20 lakh ton of rice (30 lakh ton of paddy), but lack of fund and administrative initiative has caused little impact in the market.
According to state food department, so far little over 2, 00,000 ton rice has been procured. Already the peasants are on the path of agitation as they are not getting due price of their produce. The government is in a fix as to how to reach the benefit of the minimum support price of paddy to the genuine peasants.
Because of the land reform programme pursued vigorously by the former Left Front government, most of the lands are now in the hands of the small and marginal peasants.
A large section of them often act as share croppers. But to avoid the hassle of barga-racording, these arrangements between the landowners and the share croppers are mostly done based on oral contract.
Now, these share croppers are facing problem when they are trying to sell their produce to the agents of government as they are unable to show any document.
As the peasant unrest is spreading in the rural Bengal, the political parties have jumped into the fray.
Both Left and the Congress have started agitating the issue of the peasantry causing irritation for the government. Mamata Banerjee is peeved with the Congress most as they are the minor partner in the state government.
So she has decided to take up the issue of fertilizer pricing to hit back at the Congress. As the relation between the Congress and the TC sours further, Mamata Banerjee is likely to press the matter more with the Centre in the coming days.