DAP and the holy cow, Srilatha Menon

By   October 29, 2011

DAP — the three-letter magic word which rules the life of most farmers. Some say it is not magic, but black magic, like a drug with a tantalising hold that just won’t let you go. DAP is short for Diammonium Phosphate (a commonly used fertiliser). Whether illiterate or not, farmers all over India know about DAP. And, currently, the biggest crisis that they are facing is the 100 per cent increase in the price of DAP and its acute shortage. They are willing to go hungry if only they could buy some DAP fertiliser.

Jagdish Prasad Gupta, a farmer in Uttar Pradesh, says, “The crops and soil are accustomed to DAP and urea. If DAP chemical is not used, the yield will go down and we will have no money to pay our children’s school fees, to buy clothes or even buy soaps to keep ourselves clean.” Gupta is a graduate in history, Hindi and political science and owns 40 bighas of land (or 28 acres), along with his two brothers, in Bidar village in Dudhi block of Sonebhadra. He buys a bag of DAP fertiliser for each acre and does this for every crop. He harvests three crops a year, so 72 bags of DAP is needed. Each bag costs Rs 1,000. The rates have doubled in two years. Gupta is preparing to sow wheat, once paddy is harvested. For this, he needs 16 quintals of seeds and the cost is Rs 2,200 a quintal. So, that is another Rs 35,000. Gupta realises he has to reduce the use of DAP, starting may be with a few bighas. But he fears a fall in yield.

Umendra Dutt, an organic farming activist in Punjab, says the DAP price hike is a blessing in disguise. If 30 lakh acres in Andhra Pradesh could survive on organic farming through the initiative of the NGO, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, the rest of the country could go for it, too, he says. Many farmers are daring to change and have cast off the spell of DAP, urea and other chemical inputs.

Rajesh Bhati of the Kisan Sangharh Samiti in Faridabad in Haryana, for instance, is now using the Bharat Swabhiman platform — started by Ramdev to learn and spread the word about organic farming. He says farmers spend Rs 5 lakh crore on chemicals annually. If they did not use the chemicals, they would lose only Rs 1,500 crore in yield. His formula for the DAP substitute is: A mixture of 15 kilos of cow dung, 15 kilos of cow urine, a kilo of four-year stale jaggery, a kilo of soil from an old tree and a kilo of powdered pulses (any) fermented for two weeks and then spared with 200 litres of water once in 20 days, till the harvest. Bhati swears by this formula prepared by IIT graduate the late Rajiv Dikshit, who later joined Ramdev. Farmers from across the country are converging in Karnataka next week for a conference on organic farming.

Ramesh Dagar started a Kisan Welfare Club in Sonepat which has 500 farmers engaged in organic farming. They have got themselves certified and get premiums from buyers to compensate for the slightly lower yield that they get for not using chemical inputs. Dagar, who was formerly president of the district panchayat and is not educated, gave up everything to devote himself to organic farming. He says chemicals don’t give total nutrition. The poison spreads to everything: food, air, water and milk. He has a technique of making a kilo of cow dung yield, five times the amount of fertiliser for the fields. Various clubs are coming up in other districts of Haryana, says Dagar, who also acknowledges the work being done by Ramdev’s Bharat Swabhiman to spread organic farming.

Bharat Swabhiman plans an organic farming village in each district to start with. Ramdev’s associates say they have already created 35,000 such villages in Uttarakhand and Punjab. Next on target is Himachal Pradesh. The silent prayer of these organic enthusiasts is: let the DAP prices soar.

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