Hooghly: The farmers are selling potatoes at Rs 3 per kg in Tarakeswar, Pursura and Arambagh, but people in Kolkata are buying the same potatoes at Rs 10 (Jyoti variety) and Rs 14-16 (Chandramukhi variety). The sudden dip in price of potatoes has robbed the sheen of the festive spirit in the vast rural belt of Hooghly, which thrives on potato economy.
Along with dipping potato price, the uncertainty also looms large with industries of Hooghly. On Monday, a wife of a worker of closed down jute mill committed suicide on a day when the jute mill reopened after suspension work for six months. Rakhi Mohanti, 21, wife of Shankar Mohanti, a worker of drawing department of Victoria Jute Mill, committed suicide apparently for not being able to withstand the acute poverty.
While other jute mills are functioning, but workers alleged an ill-payment. While in Bihar an average labourer gets Rs 300 per day, a jute mill worker gets Rs 165 per day. “What puja are you talking about babu, when we are losing our sleep over two square of meal,” said Raghunath Pansari, a jute mill worker in Bansberia.
Two of major sources of jobs – Hindustan Motor and Dunlop – have perpetuated the nightmare. While one has shut its shop down, other exists only symbolically. Dunlop has not had any production since its reopening a year ago. The workers gets a token salary of Rs 5,000 per month. Moreover, the factory authority has recently informed a major theft from the plant, making the possibility of any production in near future impossible.
Against this back-drop, Hooghly, the biggest producer of potatoes in the state, banked on potato price. Last year, potato -growers got its price, thanks to skyrocketing price. But this year, there is no sign of such rise of price. But the fall of potato price to Rs 3 per kg has robbed farmers of their last hope. “We grow to lose. Last year, we made distress sale after good production. Middlemen took the profit home. This year, we hoarded expecting a price to rise, but now potato price is steadily dipping,” said Balaram Ghosh, a farmer of Tarakeswar.
But the price farmer gets is unlikely to reflect in selling price at urban centres, where the potatoes reaches via many hands of middle-men. “The ‘ready aloo’ (sorted and coloured potatoes) is priced at Rs 260 per bag of 50 kg at the cold-storages. Per kg of potatoes is priced at Rs 5.2. But the same potatoes is selling at Rs 10 – 12 per kg. Just imagine how the middlemen taking away all the cream,” said Gautam Das, another retailer at Pursura.