Monday, April 07, 2008
Potato (Mish) Mash
Yesterday we drove away from the tea gardens towards the agricultural lands that lie to our south. On Sunday evening drives, you get to see the jolly sight of people returning from their trips to the weekly bazaar.
Not everyone was celebrating yesterday, though. This is a bad time for potato farmers. Our district, Jalpaiguri, and the neighbouring Cooch Behar District, are big potato growing regions, and produce high yields to the hectare. Prices have crashed, and no one wants any of this year's crop. (Read more)The problem is aggravated by the absence of sufficient storage facilities, or of organised agro-marketing. We saw this dismal looking group waiting for a pick-up truck.
Last week there were long lines of potato-laden trucks at the gates of the few cold storage facilities in the area. The gates remained firmly closed. The trucks caused major traffic snarls on the national highway, and local drivers started referring to these as 'Alu Jams'.
No wonder most farmers are now dumping potatoes in the fields from which they were harvested.
Some ten years ago, this happened with the tomato crop. The roads around the farming areas turned red, as distraught farmers dumped their produce there.
A young goldsmith and jewellery shop owner from the nearby Banarhat town lost a lot of money in a get rich quick potato-growing scheme some years ago. He had to close down shop. For some months after, he could be seen roaming around aimlessly all over town. On one occasion, he was reeling about talking to himself, quite drunk. I last saw him hard at work as one of the many karigars (workmen) at another goldsmith's -- formerly a rival outfit -- looking as dignified as ever.