Two government lists of farmers as Boro paddy suppliers are not what they look like.
Many of them are anything but farmers. They include shopkeepers, a contractor and even a former city councillor engaged in a profession other than paddy cultivation.
The lists prepared as part of the government initiative to procure 1.5 lakh tonnes of paddy at a fair price directly from marginalised farmers left out sharecroppers.
But many farmers, who have cultivated Boro but do not have surplus paddy to sell, made it to the lists. They said nobody talked to them before listing their names.
One of the lists includes someone who left paddy farming 27 years ago and does not have a farmer’s card.
Nur Mohammed Mollah, a former councillor of ward 26 under Rajshahi City corporation, is on the Rajshahi Sadar upazila’s list of 48 people.
“For the last four years, we are not cultivating paddy. Now we are doing fish farming,” said Mollah, a resident of Meherchandi area.
He used to lease out his land to sharecroppers to grow paddy and that was a few years back. No official contacted him before making this list, he said recently.
Shamimul Islam, metropolitan agriculture officer of Boalia area, said he provided the food department with the list of farmers following directives from higher officials.
“A few of the farmers may have changed their profession that we missed to follow,” he said, adding that he would look into the matter.
“The number of those wrongly identified as farmers will not be more than two or three,” he further said.
Alam Khan, 56, is a shopkeeper but he is listed as a farmer of Dhaowakola village in Bogura Sadar upazila.
The villagers said Alam has not been cultivating his land for many years now; he has a stationery shop at Mahasthan Bazar.
Visiting his home on Saturday, one of these reporters found no sign of harvested paddy or straw like that in the houses of farmers in the village.
Shown the list, Alam said, “I stopped cultivating my land about 27-28 years ago after my father had died. I have land but I lease it to sharecroppers. I don’t know how and who listed me for selling paddy to the local supply depot.”
The list prepared on May 21 even says Alam’s paddy production target was about five tonnes.
But he has only two bighas of cropland which can yield maximum 40 maunds (1.50 tonnes) of paddy in the Boro season.
Alam said he has no famer’s card, and the list does not carry his national ID card number while it bears the ID card numbers of other listed farmers.
Contacted, Sub-Assistant Agriculture Officer Mokhlesur Rahman, who listed Alam as a farmer, told The Daily Star that he had filed the names of 10.
Most probably, he said two of them were listed mistakenly. “I am not sure about the two farmers.”
The list of Bogura Sadar upazila names 295 people.
Visiting eight farmers in Dhaowakola and Gokul villages under Bogura Sadar, seven farmers said they did not know that their names were on the list. Six farmers said they have already sold their surplus produce in the local market at lower prices.
“I did not know my name was on the list. So, I already sold my surplus five maunds of rice,” said Emran Hossain, one of the listed farmers of Gokul village.
These correspondents interviewed four listed farmers of Shakharia village of Bogura on Sunday and all of them said they did not have enough paddy to sell.