| Litchi-laden trees in Muzaffarpur indicate a bumper crop this season. Picture by Lokesh Bihari |
Campaigning is on in full swing for the fifth phase of Lok Sabha elections in the state but no political party or leader has bothered to address the problems of litchi farmers of Muzaffarpur.
The litchi growers’ long-pending demand of proper marketing facilities that could help fetch good price for their cash crop remains unfulfilled. Hence, they are forced to sell it off in local markets. The farmers rue their fate but that does not stop candidates from various parties visit their orchards to seek votes.
“The availability of cold storages and direct market facilities have remained a distant dream for traditional cultivators,” said Bhola Nath Jha, the farmers’ representative to Agricultural Technology Management Agency.
Cultivated across 36,000 hectares in north Bihar, particularly in Muzaffarpur. “But the middlemen call the shots. The growers are compelled to hand over the consignments to middlemen, who fleece them badly,” said Shahid Choudhary, who owns more than 25 big litchi orchards in Mustafapur village under the district’s Minapur block.
Litchi is a perishable item and the growers need cold storage facilities.
In his second consecutive term, sitting MP Captain Jainarayan Nishad expressed regret that he could not do anything concrete for the litchi farmers. The MP, who switched over from the JD(U) to the BJP a few months back, said: “On a couple of occasions, I demanded in Parliament that Muzaffarpur be declared as a litchi hub but the UPA government turned a deaf ear to my pleas.”
Recounting his talks with Congress candidate Akhilesh Prasad Singh, Mushahri litchi grower Ram Naresh Prasad said: “Akhilesh had promised to provide at least a cold storage to keep the perishable item for a few days after plucking it for desired profits.”
Similarly, BJP nominee Ajay Kumar Nishad gave a patient hearing to the demands of growers of Naroli village. On his visit to Dhiranpatti village, JD(U) candidate Vijendra Choudhary was quick to say that Nitish Kumar had already set up the National Centre for Litchi Research in Mushahri to develop the fruit in a big way.
“Had the government provided support and facilities to send the consignments to big cities like New Delhi, Kanpur, Lucknow and Chennai, the growers would certainly have got lucrative returns,” said Vikram Sah, a litchi grower of Jhapha.
With Muzaffarpur voting on May 7, the candidates in the fray contesting Muzaffarpur and its adjoining Vaishali (it votes on May 12) Lok Sabha constituencies, however, are promising to provide the growers a marketing network to send the litchi to national and international destinations but the growers hardly believe it.
“Hum log storage aur market ka facility mangte mangte ub gai. Koi party ka MP ho sab se kaha tha (We, the litchi growers, are now fed up with asking for facility of big market and storage to earn right profit),” said Shankar, a litchi farmer of Malighat.