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Plateau of Red turns green with agro initiative

- Farmer promotes medicinal plants on land of Maoists, neighbouring tillers take cue from project

Rohtas, March 4: The Kaimur plateau, once an arms training centre for Maoist cadres, is turning out to be a hub of medicinal plants.

Thanks to Ritesh Kumar Pandey, a progressive farmer, the plateau has turned from “red to green”.

Cultivation of medicinal plants such as ghreet kumari (aloe vera), ashwagandha (withania somnifera) and shatavar or satavari (asparagus recemosus) on the water-starved land has created a buzz among the residents of Maoist-hit districts of Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh.

Residents of the Naxalite-hit areas of the three states are so curious to know about the new methods of farming that they have started visiting the farmhouse of Pandey on the Amarkha hills, a part of the Kaimur plateau in Rohtas.

“It is like a dream come true. I feel delighted when I work in my farmland spread over 25 acres. Cultivating medicinal plants on the water-starved land is a tough task. But it is now a reality, thanks to micro methods of irrigation,” a Pandey said.

The journey of his new career started in 2010 when he returned to his native village Bandu in Rohtas after almost one-and a-half decade.

“My family had shifted to Lucknow in 1996 after a major part of the land was captured by rebels,” he said. After settling down at Bandu after the death of his mother, the 1975-born Pandey found that Naxal activities were on the wane.

“I came to know that Maoists had abandoned the plateau and had shifted their activities to other areas because of a tough stance of then superintendent of police Manu Maharaaj,” he said.

Pandey said he was imparted training on farming of medicinal plants at Lucknow-based Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants. “It took me more than two years to start proper farming by drip and sprinkler irrigation methods,” he added.

Scores of farmers hailing from Auragabad and Kaimur, Sonbhadra in UP and Palamu, Garhwa and Latehar in Jharkhand have visited Pandey’s farmhouse “Jaago Kisaan Jaago” to get tips from him about the latest farming methods.

“The wind of change is blowing and so is the fate of hundreds of people, who were on the verge of starvation because of growing rebel activities,” a senior government official said.

He said on an average a farmer earned between Rs 1,00,000 and Rs 3,00,000 per annum. Pandey earns around Rs 5,00,000 every year.