Unabated irregularities and corruption in supply of diesel oil that runs irrigation pumps across the country now threaten to curtail agricultural productivity. The country is passing through the peak time of irrigating various crops, the main one among them being the boro paddy. Rain fed agriculture is not possible under the climatic conditions in this season. The high-yielding varieties (HYV) Boro crops are always completely dependent on irrigation, which is done with either diesel or electricity operated pumps. But the diesel price has been climbing steeply specially in the south western and northern districts; while its official price is Tk 30 taka a litre, it is being sold at taka 60 in many places there and that too in the black market. Thus, supplying water to some 4.50 million hectares of irrigation dependent land has become rather very difficult.
Reportedly, farmers are facing an uphill task of buying the diesel at prohibitive prices and this has created the apprehension of lower productivity of Boro crops. Diesel is used by individual farmers but in many cases the pump driven irrigation is provided on a contractual basis to crop lands on a large scale. The contract price for supplying water to each acre of land has gone up from Taka 800 to Taka 1200 and this amount is found very hard to bear by millions of small and medium level farmers.
The conditions are reflective of corrupt practices down the supply chain of diesel that has been aggravated by the rather uncaring alleged remark of the finance minister about the imminent rise in the prices of all sorts of fuel oils. Taking the announcement as the clear indication of impending rise in diesel price, hoarders of different types, including the dealers and operators of fuel pumping stations, went on a hoarding spree anticipating huge profits from this anti-social and illegal activity. Further, speculation of shortages of fuel oils in the country and transportation difficulties faced in reaching the oils to different distribution and storage points also helped create the heyday for the hoarders. Besides, the smugglers went for massive procurement of fuel oils at the prevailing prices with the motive of smuggling their accumulated stocks to the neighbouring country before the expected higher official prices of oils take effect.
The energy adviser has assured on Saturday that normal fuel supply would be ensured in the country in the next 72 hours. But there are doubts that this assurance can be a reality given the abnormal drift in the supply situation that has been allowed so far. Taking care of the dubious interest groups -- at the fastest -- who are at the root of the present crisis can be a difficult task indeed specially in the backdrop of the alleged complicity of some people in the government with the oil mafias who are responsible for creating the crisis.
The government or the relevant ministries usually rely on the district administration for taking actions against hoarders and smugglers. But the district administration in many cases allegedly have a dirty relation with the mafias. The latter are accused of bribing the district administrations and maintaining high connections at the political level to get protection for their crimes. Thus, relying on traditional administrative steps or law enforcement actions may not be enough to deliver the farmers from their present predicament. The government should consider engaging members of the armed forces to monitor and take necessary actions all through the distribution channel of fuel oils so that these can reach the users without extra burden in terms of prices.
Apart from the diesel, farmers in the south western districts are affected by similar corruption in supply of fertilisers - resulting in their scarcity and unreasonably higher prices. All these grievances of the farmers in the affected areas ought to be acted upon on an urgent basis.