Home » Irrigation & Urea: A Curse for Manipur Farmers

Irrigation & Urea: A Curse for Manipur Farmers

by Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh
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Manipur, one of the eight sisters of the northeastern region of India, is a hilly grit state situated at the lower tip of the sub-Himalayan range. Resembling most of the northern states of India, the economy of the state primarily depends on agriculture and allied activities. Though the total land under agriculture is only 6.74% of the total geographical area, it provides livelihood of more than 52% of the total population of the state. Rice being the staple food crop, accounts about 95% of the total food grains productions and covers about 72% of the total cropped area of the state. Besides rice, other cereals such as maize, wheat etc. and pulses along with various kinds of fruits and vegetables are also grown in both valley and hilly regions.
Irrigation is a very important non-physical inputs in agriculture as the crop production of an area largely depends on the existing irrigation facility. Crop production can be amplified from boosting the arable land, cropping intensity and yield per unit area of the cropped land. However, almost all of the agricultural fields in the state depends on monsoon rainfall as the irrigation facilities in Manipur are completely failed. Even though government departments like WRD (Water Resource Department) and Command Area Development Agency (CADA), constructed major and minor irrigation facilities, none of them have been successful in providing water to the fields. With dried rivers and canals, all of the River Lift Irrigation (RLIs) facilities are lying defunct. As agricultural fields in the state remains dry till date due to rainfall deficit and late arrival of south-west monsoon, fear of a possible draught has descended among the public, especially the farmers. Normally, pre-monsoon arrives in the state by the last week of March. However, rainfall deficit was significantly high this year and the whole state has been facing water scarcity since then. Meanwhile, meteorology department predicted late arrival of south-west monsoon by at least one week. Even though the south-west monsoon arrived in the state recently, widespread rainfall is still a dream. On the other hand, decreasing crop yield coupled with wide cracks developing in all over farmland of Manipur due to scanty rainfall are causing worry to the farmers who are hoping that the rain God soon smile on them to start sowing paddy seeds for the season.
Last year, the state faced flood at the start and draught like situation at the end resulting reduced crop yield. It further sparked price hike on local as well as imported rice. There is a constant fear of possible crop failure like last year among the farmers due to rainfall deficit. Generally, tilling the fields began by May last week. Seed sowing in June first week and transplantation by July first week. However, all these activities are being put on hold due to rainfall deficit. Considering the situation, there are high chances of delaying the agricultural activities till last-July. Rainfall deficit this year and policy failure on the part of the government in improving rainwater harvesting and irrigation facilities are the main reason for the draught like situation in the state.Loktak Lift Irrigation (LLI) used to supply irrigation water to Imphal Main canal and Moirang Low level canal by drawing water from Loktak lake. The authority concerned had stopped the service for long and it has made the Project unable to supply irrigation water to the command areas. Villagers of Bishnupur district like Toubul, Khoijuman and Kwashiphaiare the main producers of local vegetables sold in key markets of the state like Bishnupur, Imphal, Moirang and Churachandpur. Each farmer invests a handsome amount of money to grow vegetables commonly consumed by the people of the state. Unfortunately, rainfall scarcity and total failure of ensuring irrigation facility have hampered the vegetable productions in the farms of these villages and due to lockdown of Covid pandemic, a little produce after hard toil also damaged considerably resulting huge losss.
At the same time, the story of non-availability of Urea and other fertilizers is the head line story of most local print and electronic media despite Government claim of enough stockpile of fertilizers. This is the same old story every year. It is true, it is not practically possible for subsidized fertilizers to reach every farmer in just a few days. But the sincerity and effort of the state agriculture department should be visible enough to be appreciated. Every day, one hears farmers complaining about the scarcity of fertilizers or the way they had to wait in long ques at the district headquarters not knowing whether they will get their share or not. Again, most of the farmers in Manipur are tenants, they fail to produce proper documents of paddy fields and face the problems in availing the fertilizers provided by the state government. Thisreason, farmers have suffered enough due to covid restriction affecting agricultural activities. Despite the huge need of fertilizers, there was only one distribution center for fertilizers per district and farmers had to wait in long ques for availing fertilizers. Not just this, but due to the long wait, the black market for fertilizers is thriving across the state. Perhaps, who knows, the black market in fertilizers is thriving with the active connivance of local politicians and officials, as alleged by some groups. We all know, some MLAs and powerful politicians are stockpiling fertilizers for distribution among his constituencies and this is an important factor for the scarcity of fertilizers at a time when it is most needed.
Two parallel realities fast unfold in Manipur. The efficacy of several commissioned mega dams like, Khuga dam, the Khoupumm dam and Singda dam and even 105 MW Loktak Project is increasing exposed as evident by wide reporting on their non-functioning of their vital components of regular breach of canals and dams lying idle and defunct since decommissioning. Small scale farmers, fishing communities in and around Loktak wetlands will willfully testify the unfulfilled promises and the under-performance of 105MW Loktak HEP in Manipur. Amidst all such stories and realities of failures and under-performing of mega dams as exposed and highlighted by the media, what should be the lessons learnt? Is the government taking seriously of such realities and the message within? Why is there no investigation of such reportages to prove the veracity of such reportages and to effect necessary rectification measures? Are there no lessons learnt from such dams’ failures? One wonders, why the government of Manipur insist only on building more dams despite failures and non-performance of its previous mega dams. Any responsible and people-oriented state, which believes in democratic process will be sensitive to people’s complaints of fraught and violations by communities harmed by such destructive development onslaught. One needs to ponder who benefits out of mega dams, the contractors, the politicians, dam builders, equipment suppliers or is it the people? Why should indigenous people of Manipur sacrifice their land, forest and other survival resources for such large-scale projects which only benefits the contractors, the politicians, the engineers and the suppliers? Dolaithabi Barrage seems to be another white elephant, fast emerging in Manipur’s Northern Landscape, as though similar failed structures, Khuga dam in the south, Khoupum dam in the west and Mapithel dam in the east are simply insufficient for Manipur.In fertilizers sector, the recent move by the state government to entrust DCs with the task of availing fertilizers to farmers and at centers other than the district headquarters is a good move. But people’s apprehension is – how transparently and effectively this will be done? Irrigation and Fertilizers are the two main components to increase the farmers income by double at the end of 2022 as claimed by PM along with monetary assistance of PM KISHAN scheme in which many ghost beneficiaries are found which is a problem not yet resolved in Manipur. However, the story of irrigation and fertilizers(urea) in Manipur appears to be a curse for our farmers.
Writer can be reached to: [email protected]

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Imphal Times is a daily English newspaper published in Imphal and is registered with Registrar of the Newspapers for India with Regd. No MANENG/2013/51092


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