An Honest Livelihood
Many people living in the bordering areas of Lalmonirhat were living below the poverty line. They always suffered from lack of livelihood and leaned towards smuggling to provide for their families. But things are changing in the recent years. Cultivating vegetables in abandoned lands has yielded good profit in the recent years. Therefore, people who were previously involved in smuggling are now turning towards vegetable cultivation and earning an honourable living.
S Dilip Roy
Farmers of Indian border adjoining villages in Lalmonirhat district are becoming interested to cultivate vegetables to earn extra profit. These farmers are getting expected output cultivating vegetables in their lands. A good number of people at different bordering villages in the district are now getting interested in cultivating on abandoned lands even around their houses to make extra money. Maximum people living at bordering villages in the district are now saying no to smuggling but some years back they had to earn through smuggling. They faced different problems when they made their living out of smuggling. This didn't allow them to leave peacefully but they are happy now, their lifestyle is now improved as they are earning from farming and not any illegal source. Some years back people of bordering villages in the district were not aware of economic benefits of the cereal produces.
Sources in the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) of Lalmonirhat said about eight thousand acres of land at 50 bordering villages of five upazilas in Lalmonirhat district have been cultivating for different vegetables in the last six years. Several thousand of farmers are engaged in vegetable cultivation in 50 bordering villages including Mogholhat, Kulaghat, Durgapur, Chandro Pur, Chaparhat, Chalbola, Velabari, Doikhawa, Singimari, Barokhata, Sree Rampur, Jagotber, Panbari, Dahagram and Burimari unions in the district, AED official said.
Mohammad Nuruzzaman, Lalmonirhat Sadar Upazila Agriculture officer said that maximum land at theses bordering villages were abandoned some years ago and some farmers at these villages once depended on only paddy farming and many of them were into smuggling. They had to face manifold problems over their livelihood. Many bordering people were living below the poverty line. They always suffered from lack of livelihood and couldn't provide for their families. But now, farmers in theses villages do not suffer from extreme poverty, instead they think of how to deposit extra money in the banks. All these become possible only for farming vegetables in their land. “There is no idle land at these bordering villages. All the lands are always filled with green vegetables and the people are always busy farming vegetables,” he said.
A vegetable cultivator, Mohammad Azgor Ali, 60, at Mogholhat border village in Lalmonirhat Sadar upazila said, he started cultivating vegetables in four bighas (measurement of land) of abandoned lands beside his farmhouse in 2005 and got expected profit from farming vegetables. “Now I am cultivating vegetables on 7 bighas out of my 10 bighas of land in the village. I cultivate different items of vegetables round the year and get good profit out of it,” he added. He said, some years back he and his two sons were engaged with smuggling but that didn't change their fate. On top of that, they faced trouble in earning a decent living. Smuggling is a curse in human life and it never gives peace in the life, he said.
Another farmer in the same village, Mohubor Hossain, 55, said, once he had to depend on smuggling but smuggling never brought peace in his family. He has four bighas of land in the village that were abandoned some year ago. Taking help of agriculture officials, he started cultivating vegetables in these lands in 2006. “Now I don't like smuggling and always advice to my neighbors for engaging with vegetable farming as a healthy alternative,” he said.
Sultan mahmud,60, a farmer at Panbari border village of Patgram upazila said, “Now I have become a guardian of a well-run family in the village and I, along with my family of seven members, have been living peacefully without tension as I am cultivating vegetables on my six bighas of abandoned land for the last two years. Before that, my family was dependent on smuggling. Other members of the family also help me to grow vegetables. Now I am expecting to purchase one bigha more land in the village but I didn't purchase a single piece of land during my 20 years of smuggling,” he said.
Abdul Momin, 55, a vegetable cultivator in the same village said that a good number of villagers are engaged with vegetable farming now leaving smuggling behind. Some identified villagers are now engaged with drug and cattle smuggling in this bordering village.
A student of class nine, Mominul Islam, 14, son of Azizar Rahman, residence at Mogholhat village in Lalmonirhat sadar said that his parents sent him to the border for carrying smuggled goods when he was student of class three and four. His parents forced him to obey their orders, although he had no wish to engage in such a matter. Now his parents never order the same to him. He and his parents now grow vegetables in their lands. Now they earn a good enough living that allows them to deposit extra savings in banks. “Like me, many students in our village are now engaged in this farming with our family members working hard to grow vegetables. We work before going to school and after reaching home every day,” he said.
Hamidul Islam, 48, a school teacher at Mughlibari Govt primary school of Patgram upazila, said that the present percentage of school children was very little in the school five years ago, but now the school is crowded with students. Many school children were seen carrying smuggled goods in the border areas five years ago and now it is very rear. Now the school children are seen working in their farmlands to grow vegetables and they don't miss their classes. “Firstly a few number of people at bordering villages brought unexpected result from cultivating vegetables in the abandoned lands giving up smuggling and then it got spread among many people in the neighbouring villages,” he said.
Mogholhat UP chairman in Lalmonirhat sadar, Habibur Rahman Habib, said that Mogholhat is northern border point area in Lalmonirhat district. Kuchbehar, Dinhata, Gidal Dah, Sitai and other parts of Paschimbbanga in India is nearest from there. So maximum villagers in this union were engaged with smuggling and they were dependent on smuggling for their ignorance about modern agriculture. But now, maximum people in the union are engaged for cultivating different vegetables like tomato, bitter guard, cabbage, potato, bean, cauliflower, pumpkin etc. and are earning a good profit to make a decent and ethical living. “Mogholhat village is now perceived as a model village for cultivating huge amount of vegetables”, UP chairman said.
Chand Mia, 55, a residence at Jhalongi border village of Hatibandha upazila in the district, faced ten smuggling cases in his life and all his relatives despised him for it but he is now an ideal farmer in the village. He started growing vegetables in his six bighas of land giving up the bad habit of smuggling four years ago. “Smuggling is very bad. Smuggling is very dangerous for the person, family, society and even the country. All people hate smuggler. All the smugglers at border areas should give it up and start to engage in growing crops in their lands,” he said.
Burimari UP chairman of Patgram upazila, Asir Uddin, said that about eighty percent people here at his union are saying 'no' to smuggling, as they are earning enough from cultivating vegetables. Some twenty percent border people are still engaged in smuggling.
The Second in-Command of Lalmonirhat 31 BGB Battalion, Major Ruhul Amin, said that maximum border people have changed their lifestyle through engaging with vegetable farming in their abandoned lands. Now they despise smuggling. A few number of border people still depended on smuggling but the rate has decreased. Very soon, all the people at border areas will become conscious and will engage themselves in farming, as a decent profession, he hoped.
The Deputy Director of Lalmonirhat AED, Abdul Mazid, said that it is good news that all the abandoned lands at border areas in the district are now cultivated for vegetables. Border people who were dependent on smuggling have changed their tracks and now depend on farming. Border people are getting good profit from vegetable farming. Agriculture officials are always supporting both technically and methodically to help these people to cultivate vegetables in their lands and rescue them from the clasp of smuggling, he said.
Cover Art by Ujjal Ghose
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