Prime Minister Narendra Modi took potshots at the newly elected Congress governments in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan on Saturday, blaming them for urea shortages in the ongoing rabi cropping season. This came even as the state governments concerned claimed an improvement in the availability situation of the nitrogenous fertiliser that is especially critical for the already planted wheat and rapeseed-mustard crops.
According to the Rajasthan government, the Centre had allocated 12 lakh tonnes (lt) of urea for the state during the current rabi season from October to March. However, as against the 2.15 lt original supply plan for October and 2.60 lt for November, only 1.40 lt and 2.40 lt were made available, thereby creating a shortfall of 95,000 tonnes.
“This backlog has been almost cleared this month, with 3.40 lt of urea being received, compared to the original supply plan of 2.9 lt for December,” said Vikas Sitaramji Bhale, the State Agriculture Commissioner. Out of the balance shortfall of 45,000 tonnes, 15,000 will be supplied through five rail rakes by this month-end. The rest should be covered through higher supplies in January. “The entire crisis will be over before mid-January,” he added.
Urea is a controlled fertiliser, with the Centre fixing both its maximum retail price (MRP) and preparing a monthly supply plan based on consultations with states (which indicate their requirements), urea manufacturers and importers, the Railways, port authorities and other stakeholders. The Department of Fertilisers, then, coordinates dispatches based on the monthly supply plans. State governments are then supposed to ensure availability at their level, planning equitable distribution as per district-, block-level requirement.
This time round, serpentine queues have been reported particularly from Rajasthan’s Kota division, comprising Baran, Bundi, Jhalawar, and Kota districts. Chittorgarh, Bhilwara, Karauli and Sikar, too, have seen shortages of urea. “It is a self-perpetuating phenomenon. The moment some shortage develops, farmers themselves start buying more than their current requirement. Traders also take advantage of the situation by holding back supplies and selling at above the MRP. Ultimately, panic takes over,” officials pointed out.
In Madhya Pradesh, police had to be deployed for distribution of urea in Vidisha on Friday, while they resorted to lathicharge in Shivpuri and Raisen districts after desperate farmers turned unruly.
Farmers typically apply urea in wheat at least twice. The first is about 15-20 days after sowing and the second after 40-45 days. The wheat that would have been sown in early- to mid-November would, thus, have required urea towards November 20-30 and also mid- to end-December. The Congress governments assumed power just when farmers needed urea for their second application.
The Madhya Pradesh government, on Saturday, said there was enough stock of urea in the state. In the last four days alone, the state has received 24 rakes of urea. Apart from that, 28 are already in transit, while the Centre has agreed to increase the allocation for the state during January from 1.75 lt to 2.52 lt.
Chief Minister Kamal Nath alleged that the Centre had, in November, increased the urea quota for the state when shortages were reported just ahead of the Assembly elections. But after the unfavourable results for the BJP in Madhya Pradesh, it had stopped meeting the state’s demand with a view to malign the newly elected government.
The Centre, on its part, has denied any such move. According to the Department of Fertilisers, it issued a supply plan of 3.7 lt for Madhya Pradesh in December, against a requirement of 3.5 lt, and the urea supplies to both the state and Rajasthan have been ahead of their pro-rata requirements.
“The internal distribution within the state is the responsibility of the state government. The department regularly advises state governments to lift the allocated quantity of fertilisers and ensure efficient distribution at the ground level to farmers,” it said in a statement on December 24.