• More 25,000 hectares under Boro in Sylhet

    About 25,000 hectares are turning into double-crop lands in Sylhet district this year with cultivation of Irri-Boro in the current season for the first time. Loss of Amon paddy this year compelled farmers to cultivate Irri-Boro on the vast lands left fallow earlier. Farmers in large number in Sylhet Sadar, Golapganj, Beanibazar, Kanaighat, Zakiganj and Jaintapur upazilas are bringing the lands under paddy cultivation to recoup crop loss due to floods.

  • Villagers prevent people from entering Esselworld

    In protest of Special Entertainment Zone being constructed in the area, residents of villages near Thane surrounded the Esselworld theme park on the outskirts of the city and prevented people from entering there, sources said on Monday. The zone spread over 1000 hectares and is being constructed in the Gorai-Manori-Uttan area in neighbouring Thane by Essel Infraprojects Limited, a subsidiary of the Essel Group.

  • Congress to lead farmers' team for meeting with Sonia

    Even as the Congress is battling the BJP Government within the State Assembly and outside over the "inadequate' relief package for farmers affected by the frost and extreme cold conditions in Rajasthan, the party is leading a large group of the victims this Thursday to meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi. The party's strategy seemingly is to extract some concrete announcements from the Centre in favour of the farmers in general and the frost-hit in particular.

  • Major increase in farm productivity

    Due to efforts undertaken by Madhya Pradesh government, 148-kg per hectare increase has been registered in farm productivity in the state during the last four years.

  • A bonanza of relief for M.P. farmers

    Solid proof: A farmer showing samples of crops, damaged due to poor supply of power and water, to BJP leaders during the Kisan Mahapanchayat in Bhopal on Wednesday. The Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Shivraj Singh Chauhan, announced a bonanza of relief for farmers at the Kisan Mahapanchayat (farmers' convention) organised at the Jamboree grounds here on Wednesday.

  • Farmers get many sops

    Chief Minister Shivraj Singh has announced waiver of the pending penalty on electricity bills of farmers, payment of their fifty percent pending electricity bills, arrangement for payment of electricity bills by farmers twice in a year, extension of benefit of Deen Dayal Upchar Yojana to farmers owning upto one hectare of land, additional bonus of Rs. 100 per quintal on procurement of wheat on minimum support price this year. The Chief Minister also announced to reduce the interest rate on cooperative farm loans from seven to five percent from April one next.

  • Budget to focus on women, farmers

    THE upcoming Union Budget should have a special focus on women and farmers. This message was conveyed by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi while speaking at a function in her constituency, Rae Bareli, on Wednesday, where she expressed certainty that finance minister P Chidambaram would "keep the common man's difficulties, especially faced by women and farmers, in mind while preparing the budget'. Speaking at a Bank of Baroda function to launch the 1,000th self-help group, Ms Gandhi was also quoted by agencies as saying that while 8-9% economic growth was not a mean achievement, real happiness would come when the common man's difficulties are wiped out. She added that health and education were keys for achieving real happiness. The comments are politically significant as many in the Congress have been saying much the same thing. At a pre-budget meeting with Mr Chidambaram recently, Congress leaders pointed out that 9% growth alone growth was unlikely to pay dividends for the party in an election year. They had asked the FM to focus on the

  • Sonia, PM all ears to farmers ahead of kisan budget

    AHEAD of the Union budget, which is expected to make major announcements for the farm sector, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met farmers' representatives from Maharashtra, Haryana and Rajasthan here on Thursday. A large number of farmers from these states were given audience with Ms Gandhi at her 10 Janpath residence in a bid to give her an opportunity to directly understand their problems, the party said. Congress leaders who attended the meeting said Ms Gandhi had assured them that "she would talk to PM and the FM' about their concerns. However, the Congress chief has already conveyed her message to the government that the budget should be aimed at the

  • Farmer delegations meet Sonia Gandhi

    Seeking relief: UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi listens to the grievances of farmers from Haryana, Rajasthan and Maharashtra at her residence in New Delhi on Thursday. Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday assured delegations of farmers from Haryana, Rajasthan and Maharashtra that she would convey their budgetary demands to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister P. Chidambaram. The delegations sought waiver of farmers' debts, reduction in interest rates on loans, remunerative prices for farm produce, health insurance for farm families and crop insurance. They highlighted the high costs of inputs, crop losses on account of calamities (Rajasthan delegation spoke about the heavy damage to mustard crop from frost), lack of adequate power and poor quality of seeds. Among those who formed part of the delegations were S.S. Surjewala, Ashok Gehlot and Mukul Wasnik. On Friday, farmers' representatives have convened an emergency meeting of the National Council of the organisation of farmers and farm labour to discuss the financial and social problems of farmers. They will finalise a charter of demands to be sent to the Prime Minister.

  • The power-tiller: An agent of change in agriculture

    Spring is not far away and the villagers of Gatana, Paro know it well. But the farmers are not in a hurry - they know they will finish their work well in time. With the sound of few power-tillers echoing from the hills, that enclose the village located below Dzongdaka monastery, Gatana farmers say that what they did in a week's time in the past can now be done in a day. Behind all their confidence is the power-tiller, what many farmers call the farmer's norbu (precious jewel). What was once considered a status symbol has become a practical necessity to farmers all over the country. It is, in the words of one of the first power-tiller owners in Paro, Tshering Pem, an "agent of change' in Bhutanese farming. Tshering Pem, 68, recalls the first day when her late husband, a former gup brought home a power-tiller in 1981. "All my neighbours came with tea and khadar to celebrate the occasion. I didn't know why then,' she said with a contented smile. "I do now. It became so significant in my life,' added the successful farmer. A multipurpose machine - from fetching water to ploughing fields to ferrying people About a kilometre below Tshering Pem's house, the Agriculture Machinery Centre is hosting another significant function. The Japanese government is handing over 179 power-tillers to the centre under the KRII grant, which will travel to various dzongkhags to make a difference in the lives of farmers. "Nothing can beat the power-tiller,' says farmer Lhamu in Lobesa. "From fetching water to ploughing fields to ferrying people, it can do it all,' says Lhamu. "Without it, farming would be difficult or, at least, different.' Many farmers like Lhamu feel that farming would indeed be difficult without power tillers. One of the immediate benefits, according to farmer Thanka, was that it solved the problem of labour shortage. "With every parent knowing the value of education, there were no hands left to help on the farm,' said the former gup. "Power-tillers came as a blessing. It can do both men's and women's work. Moreover, it can do 20 men's work in a day.' Aum Tshering Pem recalls how her neighbors relied on her power-tiller to help them. "It was like magic as it tilled terrace after terrace within minutes,' she says. "Many people stopped their work and watched it for hours.' A prosperous farmer, Aum Tshering Pem says the power-tiller is more valuable than her Toyota land cruiser. Farmers run short of adjectives when asked how power-tillers changed their lives. According to one of the early owners in Paro, Gup Dep Dorji in Shari, for many farmers, they are valued more than their parents. "There are no words to describe how it helped Bhutanese farmers,' he says. Dorji bought his tiller in 1987 and boasts that it still works fine. "The greatest thing the tiller brought to farmers was that it relieved both men and women of their drudgery,' he says. "It's a multipurpose machine. I'd prefer it to a truck.' Dorji has a long list of what the tiller can do, and says that it enhanced farmer's income from cash and food crops and made many self sufficient. "From the same area of land, yields are almost doubled when a tiller is used,' he says. AMC officials say that a power-tiller can till 1 to 1.5 acres of land in a day. "That would be the work of four pairs of bulls,' said the official. A power tiller can plough, transplant rice, thresh paddy, and pump water, besides doing many other domestic work. Aum Tshering Pem's village, with about 30 households, has now about 15 power-tillers. AMC's administrative officer, Wangchuk, who served with the centre since its inception in 1984, says that he has witnessed a sea-change since the machine's intervention in Bhutanese farming. "It has helped farmers improve yield, save cost, and lessened drudgery,' he says. "Today, it has become indispensable in farming.' The tillers from the KRII grant are sold at a subsidized rate to farmers. However, the cost of one has gone up from Nu 19,500 in 1983 to about Nu 112,000 now. Wangchuk said that the centre tied up with Bhutan Development Finance Corporation to lend farmers money to purchase the machines. "Today, farmers buy, even paying cash down,' he says. According to the centre's engineer, Kinga Norbu, because of the demand, distribution is done to ensure that every dzongkhag gets the machine. He said that Paro, Punakha, Wangduephodrang have the highest demand, but preference is given to farmers' groups. The demand for power-tillers is so high that a few private firms have started importing them from China and India. Paro has the highest number of power tillers at 458, followed by Punakha with 241, and Wangdue with 221. Remote dzongkhags like Zhemgang have 40 and Gasa 34. Yesterday, at the handing-over ceremony, the programme director of the centre, Chetem Wangchen, said that the popularity of the tiller has become evident with a huge surge in demand. More than 800 farmers have already applied for tillers since last year. From 30 sold in the first lot in 1983, AMC has distributed 2,180 to date. Meanwhile, the list of the KRII grant, the 20th instalment, was handed over to the agriculture secretary, Sherub Gyeltshen, by Mr Keizo Takewaka, minister, Japanese Embassy in New Delhi, India. At the ceremony, the minister commended the agriculture ministry for their policy in mechanizing agriculture and said that the Japanese government was happy to see their assistance put to best use in Bhutan. "We're happy to see that our assistance is helping the development of agriculture and rural farmers,' said Mr Keizo Takewaka. The agriculture secretary, Sherub Gyeltshen said that the KRII grant is an unprecedented and unique grant from the Japanese government in achieving Bhutan's food self sufficiency policy and developing agriculture. "The grant has benefitted Bhutanese farmers, especially when most are dependent on agriculture, farmlands are located in difficult terrain and when there is an acute shortage of farm labour,' he said. Back in Gatana, two men are taking their power-tiller home after a day's work. "I've made Nu 3,000 from hiring out my tiller today,' says the proud owner of the tiller. "It will be enough for my daughter's shopping when she goes back to school.' By Ugyen Penjore

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