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Government to form farm clusters for common infrastructure

Two types of clusters— one with 50-100 farmers, especially for backward districts and the second with a larger group (more than 200) across the state— will be formed
A poultry farm in Jalpaiguri district.
A poultry farm in Jalpaiguri district.
File photo

Snehamoy Chakraborty   |   Calcutta   |   Published 24.09.22, 01:19 AM

 The Mamata Banerjee government has decided to form hundreds of clusters of farmers across Bengal and create common infrastructure for them as part of an attempt to help those involved in agriculture and allied activities in rural Bengal. 

In a first-of-its-kind initiative, all district magistrates were asked to register such clusters of farmers —who have contiguous land or have goat and poultry farms or fisheries in the same areas — under the community-based organisation (CBO) programme and extend the necessary help to the members of the clusters.


“The main objective of the initiative is to extend help to farmers and agricultural workers at a time when there is a financial crisis in rural areas following the discontinuation of the rural jobs scheme.... We are trying to bring farmers together and help them operate like cooperatives so that they can reap the benefits of economies of scale. Around 300 such clusters have already come up in multiple districts and the effort is on to form more such groups,” said a senior state government official. 

Bengal has around 72 lakh farmers and the agrarian community plays an important role in deciding electoral outcomes.

“The state was forced to press a pause button on the MGNREGA scheme after Delhi stopped releasing funds... The panchayat polls are scheduled for next year and the Lok Sabha polls the year after. The government can’t take chances with the rural economy and that’s why efforts are being made to help the farmers community,” said a source.  

The marginal farmers and farm-labourers in rural Bengal are facing a challenge with their livelihood since last December when the fund flow from Delhi stopped amid allegations of misuse and embezzlement of central funds.  Since then, chief minister Mamata Banerjee had come up with various ideas to create job opportunities for the rural people. “This prompted the government to explore more options and that’s when the idea of creating clusters for farmers came up,” said a source. 

The agriculture department has been assigned to anchor the new scheme in collaboration with different other departments, including the animal resource department (ARD), fisheries, irrigation and agricultural marketing. 

Sources said the state government is in the process of creating two types of clusters of farmers — one with 50-100 farmers, especially for backward districts in central and western Bengal and the second with a larger group (more than 200) across the state. 

“We have chosen six Bengal districts — West Burdwan, West Midnapore, Birbhum, Bankura, Jhargram and Purulia for the small clusters. In all these six districts we have formed around 141 such clusters in the past one-and-a-half months. We have received proposals for around 200 large-scale farmers’ societies across the state,” said an official. 

The block level officials are conducting surveys to identify areas where the clusters can be formed and common facilities — like ponds for irrigation purposes — can be created. There are plans to help the farmers with seeds or animal fodder and other benefits. 

“Once the cluster is formed as a society of farmers,  the department concerned would be asked to provide the required infrastructure for the land or the goateries or poultry firms or fisheries. The objective is to reduce their cost of production so that their income levels go up,” said a source. 

“The state government would also help the farmers to sell their products through the agricultural marketing department,” said an official. In July this year, the state government organised its first-ever agri-business meet with 220 participants from agro-related businesses, with the objective of exploring opportunities to link agriculture and industry for benefit of the both stakeholders. “Those agro-based companies would be tied up with the farmers' clusters to ensure proper market access for their produce,” said a source.

K Radhika Aiyar, district magistrate of Bankura, said that 13 such clusters have been registered in her district and the plan for required infrastructure would be drawn up soon. An official said the benefits of the clusters would flow to the agricultural workers as they would get jobs.“We would also conduct the soil test and help the farmers to know which crops would be produced better in that specific area. For instance, in districts like Purulia or Bankura, paddy cultivation may not be possible in some areas, but other crops like maize, gram or oilseeds can grow better,” said an agriculture department official.

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