MANGALDAI: Thirty six out of 40 retail fertilizer traders in Darrang district are carrying out their flourishing business without valid license and documents! The Sentinel in its issue on July 18 had revealed the flourishing trade of selling government subsidized urea fertilizer to farmers by fertilizer traders, both retailer and wholesaler, at a rate more than double the fixed price. Significantly, the fertilizer traders of the district were involved in an unholy nexus with certain officials of the Agriculture department to reduce the government's farmer-friendly policy into a farce.
Following the publication of the news report in The Sentinel, the Agriculture department in Darrang district launched a detailed inquiry into the allegations and significantly, in the inquiry gross violations of the rules and provisions of the government policy committed by a large section of fertilizer traders came to light. The Agriculture department conducted an inquiry on 40 out of the total 279 retail fertilizer sellers of the district. Surprisingly, only four traders were able to produce their valid documents like valid license, retail ID, using of POS machines, maintenance of the stock register, making payment through UPI, while the other 36 fertilizer traders failed to produce any document or valid license. The district Agriculture department, meanwhile, has taken up departmental action by suspending the license of 26 fertilizer traders, serving show-cause notices to six retail traders and has also issued notice to six traders to stop their sale with immediate effect.
The fertilizer traders in Darrang have been selling urea at Rs. 10 to Rs. 12 per kilogram against the subsidized rate of Rs. 5.91 per kilogram. Surprisingly, the fertilizer dealers allegedly charged Rs. 10 to Rs. 12 per kg but in the cash memo they mentioned the rate as Rs. 5.91. Similarly, the subsidized rate of one packet of urea of 45 kg is Rs. 266, but they are selling it at Rs. 420 to Rs. 600. But in the cash memo they show the price at Rs. 266 only. In another allegation, the fertilizer dealers are also selling the subsidized urea in the name of some fictitious farmers with the evil design to sell the fertilizers in the black market.
A fertilizer wholesale dealer admitted that they have been selling the subsidized urea at Rs. 8.00 as per the verbal approval of a Deputy Commissioner since 2010. But the Deputy Commissioner is not authorized to fix the rate which has already been fixed by the Agriculture department. On the other hand, All Darrang District Agro Dealer Association- a non-registered association of the fertilizer dealers - on July 9 had submitted a petition to the Director of Agriculture, Government of Assam, citing the reason for selling the subsidized urea at the higher rate. Non-availability of rake points in the district, rise in handling and transportation cost and inadequate supply of urea are reasons for selling the urea at a higher price, as claimed by the organization.
Meanwhile, various social organizations, including Seuji Asom, an organization of the progressive farmers of the district, have demanded the Agriculture department to conduct an inquiry into the remaining 239 retail fertilizer traders of the district, including the 15 wholesale dealers of fertilizers, and to take stern legal action against erring fertilizer traders for cheating and exploiting the poor rural farmers and for flouting the government policy and norms.