seeds of violence

As fertiliser riots spread across Haryana, police stations turn into urea distribution centres

Farmers across the northern state have been protesting the prolonged shortage of urea with demonstrations and violence.

A severe scarcity of urea in Haryana has pushed the state into the grip of fertiliser riots, spreading panic among farmers and forcing the administration to distribute urea through police stations. At some places the shortage has led to violence, and at others massive demonstrations.

“The yield of wheat will get severely affected if sufficient urea is not applied to the crop in the next five to seven days,” said Laxman Shekhawat, a farmer in Nanuana village of Haryana’s Sirsa district. “The Prime Minister [Narendra Modi] had made tall promises to farmers before the Assembly elections, but it seems he is interested only in pleasing (Barack) Obama and a handful of industrialists. We never experienced this kind of crisis during the 10 years of the previous [Bhupinder Hooda] government.”

The Haryana Congress apportions blame to the Union government, which, it says, has failed to meet the state’s urea quota. Urea, a key input for enhancing agricultural production, is integral for the cultivation of high-yield wheat. In Haryana, the wheat crop is sown in October and early November. Between mid-November and mid-January, farmers need urea in large quantities to irrigate the fields.


Farmers queue up to get urea


Haryana’s farmers first noticed the scarcity of urea around the end of November, about a month after a Bharatiya Janata Party government led by Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar took the reins in the state.

By mid-December, the shortfall started causing panic. On December 16, farmers staged protests around the state over non-availability of urea in state-run shops. At Narwana railway station in Jind district, a throng of farmers blockaded train services on the Delhi-Ludhiana route for three hours, while at Kalayat in Kaithal district, farmers expressed their ire by blocking the Chandigarh-Hissar national highway.

Nearly a week later, Sonepat and Ambala became the flashpoints. On December 22, farmers blockaded many roads in Gohana in Sonepat district. They lifted the obstructions only after the local administration promised to supply them the required urea within 24 hours. The same day, hundreds of farmers gathered at the local grain market in Ambala when they learnt that urea was being distributed at a private fertiliser outlet there. Only with great effort could the police control the mob.

National highway blockaded

As the scarcity of urea has persisted, farmers have grown more desperate. There have been sporadic incidents of looting of fertiliser, forcing the Haryana government to deploy police at fertiliser distribution centres. In some areas, it has turned police stations into urea distribution centres to keep mobs of farmers away.

Yet, the shortage has been so acute that, despite government measures, fertiliser riots have not subsided. On January 10, hundreds of farmers rioted and attacked policemen when the distribution of urea at the police post in a grain market in Hansi in Hissar district was stopped for a while. Later, when more than 300 farmers were booked for the incident, another group of angry mob blocked the Hissar-Delhi national highway, demanding immediate release of urea.

“I have been running a fertiliser shop for almost 20 years, but never have I seen such an agrarian crisis,” said Deen Dayal, a wholesale dealer of fertilisers in Tavru block in Haryana’s Mewat district.

State plays blame game

Laxman Shekhawat, a farmer in Nanuana village in Sirsa district, observed that farmers have been incensed further by the government’s insensitivity. “Instead of taking concrete steps to improve the situation, the chief minister and his colleagues have been issuing statements that there is no shortage of urea and that the crisis has emerged because farmers resorted to overbuying fertiliser,” Shekhawat said. “Blaming farmers for the shortage is a cruel joke.”

Indeed, the dispensation has been busy playing the blame game. For long after the crisis became apparent, Khattar and his Agriculture Minister Om Prakash Dhankar denied reports of urea shortage. About a month ago, Congress legislative party leader Kiran Choudhry wrote to the chief minister, expressing concern over reports that truckloads of fertiliser was being smuggled to neighbouring states from Haryana, where urea is relatively cheap as it is sold without Value Added Tax.

“Immediately thereafter, the state government and the BJP leaders have started blaming the previous Hooda government for failing to make advance arrangement of the fertiliser,” said Congress spokesperson R S Mann. “The truth, however, is different.”

According to Mann, between November and January, when urea consumption is highest, the Union government has failed to meet the quota fixed for Haryana. In November, the state received 1.90 lakh metric tonne of urea as against the quota of 2.65 lakh metric tonne. Similarly, up to December 17, it should have got 1.87 lakh metric tonne of urea, instead it got merely 1.40 lakh metric tonne.

Not just Haryana, some reports say, urea shortage has hit many parts of the country. Its domestic production has been weakened lately because of the Centre’s decision to withdraw subsidy for naphtha-based urea production, resulting in the closure of some plants.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content  BY 

Want to retire at 45? Make your money work for you

Common sense and some discipline are all you need.

Dreaming of writing that book or taking that cruise when you hit your 40s? Well this dream need not be unrealistic.

All it takes is simple math and the foresight to do some smart financial planning when you are still young. If you start early and get into the discipline of cutting down on unnecessary expenditure, using that money to invest systematically, you can build wealth that sets you free to tick those items off your bucket list sooner than later.

A quick look at how much you spend on indulgences will give you an idea of how much you can save and invest. For example, if you spend, say Rs. 1,000 on movie watching per week, this amount compounded over 10 years means you would have spent around Rs 7,52,000 on just movies! You can try this calculation for yourself. Think of any weekly or monthly expense you regularly make. Now use this calculator to understand how much these expenses will pile up overtime with the current rate of inflation.

Now imagine how this money could have grown at the end of 10 years and overcome the inflation effect if you had instead taken a part invested it somewhere!

It is no rocket science

The fact is that financial planning is simpler than we imagine it to be. Some simple common sense and a clear prioritization of life’s goals is all you need:

  1. Set goals and work backwards: Everything starts with what you want. So, what are your goals? Are they short-term (like buying a car), medium-term (buying a house) or long-term (comfortable living post-retirement). Most of us have goals that come under all the three categories. So, our financial plans should reflect that. Buying a house, for example, would mean saving up enough money for up-front payment and ensuring you have a regular source of income for EMI payment for a period of at least 15-20 years. Buying a car on the other hand might just involve having a steady stream of income to pay off the car loan.
  2. Save first, spend later: Many of us make the mistake of putting what is left, after all our expenses have been met, in the savings kitty. But the reverse will have more benefits in the long run. This means, putting aside a little savings, right at the beginning of the month in the investment option that works best for you. You can then use the balance to spend on your expenditures. This discipline ensures that come what may, you remain on track with your saving goals.
  3. Don’t flaunt money, but use it to create more: When you are young and get your first jobit is tempting to spend on a great lifestyle. But as we’ve discussed, even the small indulgences add up to a serious amount of cash over time. Instead, by regulating indulgences now and investing the rest of your money, you can actually become wealthy instead of just seeming to be so.
  4. Set aside emergency funds: When an emergency arises, like sudden hospitalisation or an accident, quick access to money is needed. This means keeping aside some of your money in liquid assets (accessible whenever you want it). It thus makes sense to regularly save a little towards creating this emergency fund in an investment that can be easily liquidated.
  5. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket: This is something any investment adviser will tell you, simply because different investment options come with different benefits and risks and suit different investment horizons. By investing in a variety of instruments or options, you can hedge against possible risks and also meet different goals.

How and Why Mutual Funds work

A mutual fund is a professionally managed investment scheme that pools money collected from investors like you and invests this into a diversified portfolio (an optimal mix) of stocks, bonds and other securities.

As an investor, you buy ‘units’, under a mutual fund scheme. The value of these units (Net Asset Value) fluctuates depending on the market value of the mutual fund’s investments. So, the units can be bought or redeemed as per your needs and based on the value.

As mentioned, the fund is managed by professionals who follow the market closely the make calls on where to invest money. This makes these funds a great option for someone who isn’t financially very savvy but is interested in saving up for the future.

So how is a mutual fund going to help to meet your savings goals? Here’s a quick Q&A helps you understand just that:

  1. How do mutual funds meet my investment needs?Mutual Funds come with a variety of schemes that suit different goals depending on whether they are short-term, medium-term or long-term.
  2. Can I withdraw money whenever I want to?There are several mutual funds that offer liquidity – quick and easy access to your money when you want it. For example, there are liquid mutual funds which do not have any lock in period and you can invest your surplus money even for one day. Based on your goals, you can divide your money between funds with longer term or shorter term benefits.
  3. Does it help save on taxes?Investing in certain types of mutual funds also offers you tax benefits. More specifically, investing in Equity Linked Saving Schemes, which are funds that invest in a diverse portfolio of equities, offers you tax deductions up to Rs. 1.5 lakhs under Section 80C of the Income Tax Act.
  4. Don’t I need a lot of money to invest in MFs?No, you can start small. The returns in terms of percentage is the same irrespective of the amount you invest in. Additionally, the Systematic Investment Plan (SIP) allows you to invest a small amount weekly, monthly or quarterly in a mutual fund. So, you get to control the size and frequency of your investment and make sure you save before you spend.
  5. But aren’t MFs risky?Well many things in life are risky! Mutual funds try to mitigate your risk by investing your money across a variety of securities. You can further hedge risk by investing in 2 to 3 mutual offers that offer different growth stories i.e. a blue-chip fund and a mid-cap fund. Also remember in a mutual fund, your money is being managed by professionals who are constantly following the market.
  6. Don’t I have to wait too long to get back my returns?No! Mutual Funds, because of the variety of options they offer, can give you gains in the short or medium term too.

The essence of MF is that your money is not lying idle, but is dynamically invested and working for you. To know more about how investing in mutual funds really works for you, see here.

Disclaimer: Mutual Fund investments are subject to market risks, read all scheme related documents carefully.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Mutual Funds Sahi Hai and not by the Scroll editorial team.