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Govt moves to help Boro farmers

Farm labourers being sent to country’s granaries

Published : 23 Apr 2020 09:48 PM | Updated : 07 Sep 2020 01:56 PM

With labour in short supply for the ongoing nationwide coronavirus shutdown, the government has made special arrangements to aid farmers in Boro paddy harvesting. At the instruction of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) with the support of local administration and police is arranging transportation of labourers from different districts to the country’s granaries, said sources from DAE and local administration.

Many labourers were unwilling to leave home fearing coronavirus infection. Against this backdrop, the Health Department has come forward to stand beside the worried labourers. The department has decided to conduct medical tests on every farm labourer to save them from Covid-19. The labourers are being provided with masks, hand sanitisers, medicines and necessary food before their departure.
The health department is also providing instructions to farmers and labourers to be practiced during the paddy harvesting.

It was learnt, Natore police on Wednesday sent about 1,300 farm labourers from Gurudashpur and Baraigram areas in the district to different parts of the country, including Sunamganj, Gazipur, Sirajganj, Natore's Chalan Beel and Halti Beel, under special arrangements amid the shutdown. Earlier, the farm labourers were gathered on Gurdaspur Pilot High School ground and directed to follow the hygiene rules as well as the heath instructions. They were also provided masks and hand sanitisers at the time.

Zakir Mandal, a farm labourer of Natore, said his team has 50 members. They used to go to Sunamganj from Biaghat union of Gurudaspur upazila every year to harvest paddy. They became worried this year following nationwide shutdown, but they have come out of worries for government’s steps. He thanked the police for taking such an initiative for them.

Superintendent of Police (SP) of Natore Liton Kumar Saha said that the farm labourers were not able to go to work due to the situation following coronavirus spread. The workers are being sent to different districts under special arrangements for paddy harvesting. Special care will be taken to ensure that the workers are not harmed in any way, he added.

In Thakurgaon, a total of 26 farmers from Ranishankail upazila in the district have been sent to the haors (wetlands) of Netrakona under special arrangements. Upazila Nirbahi Officer Mausumi Afrida said that the farmers were provided transport facilities and sent to Netrakona on Wednesday.

Farm labourers Nur Alam and Abu Taleb of Parkunda village and Nurjamal and Taleb from Gogor area in the upazila said, “We are already under extreme financial pressure. The government’s special initiative will curb this problem. We are happy over the government’s initiative,” they said.

Deputy Director of DAE in Thakurgaon, Altaf Hossain said that most of the workers in the district are agricultural workers. “We are making special arrangements to transport the farm labourers to the haors with support from the local police,” he said.

Our Kishoreganj Correspondent reports that the local administration has taken special initiative to tackle the crisis of paddy workers in the haor district following coronavirus spread. The government will provide extra Tk 200 cash or 5 kg rice and transport facilities to each farm labourer who comes to haor for Boro harvesting.

Several hundred farm labourers from different areas of Chattogram and some other parts of the country have already reached Austragram and some other upazilas in the district.

Chattogram Metropolitan Police (CMP) has arranged safe transport facilities for the labourers. In the first phase, the CMP sent 100 workers on Sunday to Austagram upazila from the port city’s Bakalia on five buses, ensuring social distancing measures and security. Later, CMP sent many other farm labourers. On the other hand, farm labourers from Sirajganj, Sherpur, Jamalpur and Mymensingh have already started coming to different upazilas in the district.

Kishoreganj DAE’s Deputy Director, Md. Shamsul Alam said that this year, the government has provided 180 combined harvesters and 137 reaper machines for six districts, including Kishoreganj. He hoped that special arrangements taken by the government will ease Boro farmers’ worries.

In Sunamganj, Boro paddy in haor areas of the district is almost ready for harvesting. Workers from northern districts, including Rangpur, Dinajpur, Thakurgaon, Pabna, Mymensingh and Netrokona, participate in harvesting paddy every year in the district.

The vast lowlands in the district are a major source of rice for the entire country. The DAE officials said that the government wants to secure Boro harvesting at any cost to ensure food safety. They also said that Boro paddy has been cultivated on nearly 2.19 lakh hectares of land this season and the yield is good owing to favorable weather.

Sunamganj DAE sent letters to deputy commissioners of northern districts seeking 14,000 labourers for Boro paddy harvesting in Sunamganj. DC of the district Abdul Ahad said that they have allowed the farm labourers to stay at educational institutions and formed medical teams for them. They are also being brought under relief operations, he added.

Sunamganj DAE’s Deputy Director Mohammad Safar Uddin said, “We hope a good number of farm labourers will come for Boro harvesting in Sunamganj Besides, the harvesting machines provided by the government will help the farmers.”

(Bangladesh Post sub-editor Nourin Ahmed Monisha, feature writer Badhan Sarkar and correspondents from Sunamganj, Kishoreganj, Natore and Thakurgaon contributed to this report)