Vol. 5 Num 618 Thu. February 23, 2006  
Front Page

Fertiliser, Diesel, Power Crises
Farmers stage massive protests, block roads

Thousands of farmers angered by the persisting crises of fertiliser, diesel and power laid siege to different local government offices, blocked roads and staged demonstrations in Satkhira, Jessore, Rangpur, Gaibandha, Cox's Bazar and other districts across the country yesterday.

As the local administrations came under immense pressure from the farmers, the government yesterday issued a circular, asking 16 joint secretaries to monitor marketing of fertiliser and fuel in 16 districts.

Meanwhile, the government central monitoring committee under a deputy minister formed three days back and tasking of 16 bureaucrats with monitoring at local levels appear to have no impact as several regions in the country are still witnessing acute shortage of supply and price hike of urea and fuel.

Over 4,000 angry farmers put up barricade from 10:00am to 12 noon on the Satkhira-Khulna Highway in front of the Patkelghata Palli Bidyut Samiti office in Tala upazila, reports our Satkhira correspondent.

They confined Satkhira Deputy Commissioner (DC) Md Ilias and Tala Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Mostafizur Rahman for about an hour on the road. Demanding fertilisers, they assaulted the DC as the two attempted to remove the barricade.

Besides, at least 20 farmers staged fast-until-death in front of the Patkelghata Police Station, demanding immediate supply of fertilisers.

Police said the farmers came to Patkelghata Bazar in the morning to buy fertilisers, but as urea was scarce and pricey, the angry farmers staged sit-in on the highway.

Meanwhile, over 2,000 farmers put up barricade on the Satkhira-Kaliganj Road in Satkhira Sadar upazila from 7:00am to 11:00am yesterday, demanding fertilisers.

The angry farmers chanted slogans against Jamaat lawmaker Maulana Abdul Khaleque for not taking any measure to solve the fertiliser crisis.

Sadar UNO SM Ashrafuzzaman and the police rushed to the spot and brought the situation under control, assuring the farmers of fertiliser supply within 2:00pm today.

In Jessore, agitating farmers demanding fertiliser brought out processions and hurled shoes at the office of the Keshabpur UNO yesterday morning. They also laid siege to the Upazila Krishi Office, reports our correspondent in Jessore.

DC Mohammad Abdul Wazed and Additional Deputy Commissioner (General) Omar Farook rushed to Keshabpur at noon and distributed 245 bags urea. Hundreds of farmers, however, had to return empty-handed.

Our Rangpur correspondent reports: Hundreds of farmers laid siege to the offices of the DC and the Deputy Director of the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE), protesting adulteration and crises of agricultural inputs including diesel, fertiliser, seeds and power in the district.

DC Nazrul Islam Khan and DAE Deputy Director Ainul Haque, however, had left their offices sensing the farmers' programme.

The angry farmers damaged a vehicle of an agro-input marketing company in front of the Zila Parshad Community Centre Market.

The farmers under Rangpur Krishi Unnayan Forum, Rangpur Potato Farmers Council and Rangpur Farmers Council brought out a procession in the morning and paraded the main roads of the town.

In Cox's Bazar also, different political parties and farmers' organisations took to the streets and besieged the Ukhiya UNO office, demanding fertiliser and diesel, reports our correspondent in the district.

The Awami League (AL) and the Communist Party of Bangladesh brought out processions, held rallies and laid siege to the UNO office.

The AL activists scuffled with the police as the law enforcers obstructed their programme.

The manager of Fayez Filling Station in the town said he got enough diesel for sale although the diesel crisis and short supply of urea have deepened the farmers' woes.

Our Gaibandha correspondent reports: Fuel stock of Balashi floating depot was exhausted within three days of receiving nearly 5 lakh litre diesel. There is widespread allegation that six distributors in the remote shoal areas hoarded 51,200 litre diesel after receiving fuel from the depot.

Sources said oil barge MV Tapash arrived at the Balashi floating depot with 495,000 litre diesel on February 18. The depot distributed 400,000 litre diesel among 24 dealers and distributors the same day.

Locals alleged that around six distributors of the shoal areas hoarded more than 50,000 litre fuel for additional profit. They also alleged that although these distributors had papers for specific sale centres, they did not follow it.

These distributors either sold the total stock on the black market or to people at high price, sources said.

Aminul Huq, local union parishad member and owner of Bhai Bhai Enterprise that received 8,800 litre diesel from the depot, however, denied the allegations of selling fuel at Tk 36 per litre. "We are selling diesel at Tk 33 per litre and are compelled to do so to compensate for the high cost of transportation and labour," he said.

Eighteen more oil dealers in the remote shoal areas have meanwhile received 398,000 litre diesel at the instruction of the monitoring cell concerned, said Motiur Rahman, in-charge of Balashi floating depot.