The Telegraph
Wednesday , March 25 , 2015

Court unhappy with govt potato measures

Calcutta, March 25: Calcutta High Court today expressed displeasure at the measures initiated by the Mamata Banerjee government to ease the problems of potato farmers.

"The steps the government has taken will help traders, transporters and industrialists. It has failed to solve the growers' crisis," Chief Justice Manjula Chellur said after going through the affidavit.

In response to an earlier order of the court, the government today filed an affidavit mentioning the initiatives it had taken to help the farmers tide over the crisis of falling potato prices because of excess production.

In the affidavit submitted to the division bench of Chief Justice Chellur and Justice Joymalya Bagchi, the government mentioned that it had decided to give subsidy to traders so that they feel encouraged to export potatoes to other states and countries. The government said it had also decided to procure 50,000 tonnes of potatoes directly from the farmers at Rs 5.50 a kg.

Hearing a PIL filed by advocate Rabishankar Chatterjee seeking the court's intervention to solve the potato crisis farmers were facing, the court made some suggestions. The chief justice asked additional advocate-general Lakshmi Gupta: "Why is your government not constituting farmers' co-operatives and activating kisan mandis?"

The additional advocate-general did not make any promises on the proposals.

In states such as Gujarat, there are farmers' co-operatives that get in touch with bulk buyers to help the farmers sell their produce directly to them through contract farming agreements.

"The issue of activating kisan mandis is also the need of the hour. In several states such as Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat, potatoes are graded by using machines after these are brought to the mandis. There is always a demand for graded potatoes," a Bengal agriculture department official said.

The court today asked the government to submit on Friday a concrete proposal for setting up an expert committee to solve the problems. The court said the committee should include agriculture, trade and marketing experts.

"Secretaries and joint secretaries are not needed to be kept in the committee," the court said.

The case will come up for hearing on Friday.

Two potato growers committed suicide in Birbhum and West Midnapore yesterday, raising the number of such deaths to 11 over two weeks.

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