West Bengal Government to buy potatoes from farmers to stop suicides

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee speaking in Kolkata on Tuesday.

A day after a potato farmer allegedly committed suicide after suffering heavy losses, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday said her government will purchase 28,000 tonnes of potatoes, required for Anganwadi centres (Health Centres also providing supplemental nutrition to young kids) and midday meal programme (schools), directly from farmers.

Her announcement comes at a time when potato farmers across the State are facing a severe crisis -- at least two of them have committed suicide -- due to the sharp drop in prices following this years’ bumper crop.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee:

“We have decided to buy 28,000 tonnes of potatoes directly from the farmers which we need every month for the Anganwadi centres and the midday meal programme.”

“The government will buy potatoes at ₹4.60 per kg.”
Ms. Banerjee was speaking at a government programme on Krishak Dibas (Farmers’ Day) observed by the Trinamool Congress government on March 14 to pay tribute to those who died during the anti-land acquisition movements at Singur in Hooghly district and Nandigram in Purba Medinipur district.

As per the projected estimates of the State government, the number of schools (up to Class VIII) to be covered under the midday meal scheme is 83,673 and the number of students is about 1 crore. According to potato merchants, this is the first time that the TMC government is directly purchasing potatoes from farmers.

The development comes a day after a potato farmer allegedly committed suicide due to losses in farming in the Anandapur area of Paschim Medinipur district’s Keshpur block. According to his family, Swapan Hajra (45) committed suicide after sustaining “heavy losses” in potato farming.

‘Heavy debt’

Mr. Hajra’s son Indrajit to journalists:

“He incurred a large debt for cultivating potatoes in four bighas (1.60 acres) of land.”
The Opposition, however, is sceptical whether the move will be beneficial for the potato farmers.

Tarun Roy, CPI-M district secretary of Paschim Medinipur:

“This is nothing but a face saving move. If the TMC government is really bothered about the farmers they would have purchased potato from them at a much higher rate.”