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The Grand Chase

M. J. Arul

It is three O'clock in the afternoon of December 7, 1983, about a month after the kharif procurement began. The General Manager (Commercial), Manager (Growers' Organisation & Services) and the District Officer are seated, facing thirty-five farmers in the district office. These farmers are chairmen and secrataries of societies under the jurisdiction of the Purnakothi Area Office -- one of the eight area offices in the district.

The GM rises, greets the audience and speaks about the advantages of procuring groundnut by the pooling system. He answers questions as they arise. It's 3:20 and he continues to talk about the Federation's concern for its member farmers. There enter two men, one in his early forties and the other about thirty. The older man looks agitated. He walks up the middle isle of the room, stops mid-way, stands upright, swivels his head as he scans the audience, and fixes his gaze on the speaker, who pauses. The "intruder" bursts out:

Where is our money? Give it me now. This my sixth visit. The 69000 rupees plus the payment for thirteen trucks of groundnut are killing us. I cannot go back to my village, without the money. It has become difficult for me to live there. They, the farmers, will eat me up raw; they're already doing it. Give me the money -- now, this moment.

Thakkarbhai's words stopped, but their resonance continued in the deadness of silence, which had gripped the room.

Thakkarbhai is the chairman of Sonapura Village Oilseed Growers' Co-operative Society. The Society has 194 members and is situated forty kilometers from the district office. It falls under the jurisdiction of Manavadia Area Office, another of the district's eight area offices.

In the wake of a shortage of fertilisers in the market, the member farmers of the Sonapura society had approached their District Office, according to whom it was possible to obtain the material straight from the State Fertiliser Corporation. Details relating to this venture may be reconstructed with the help of the three annexes, which follow:

Annex: I (Translated from Gujarati.)

To: Shri District Officer
Gujarat Co-operative Oilseeds Growers' Federation Limited
Purnakothi

Subject: Regarding DAP Fertiliser

We sent you, through our Area Office (Manavadia), Two State Bank of Saurashtra Demand Drafts, dated 17 and 18 November, 1983, for a total sum of Rs. 69740/-. This was toward purchase of DAP fertiliser, which the Area Office had told us would be available by 22-11-1983. It is November 29 today and no fertiliser has yet been received. Waiting for the fertiliser, the farmers delayed their irrigation. Unable, however, to delay it any further, they have now irrigated their land and they do not want the fertiliser now. We request you, therefore, to return our farmers' money immediately.

Yours faithfully,

Sd/- 1. (THAKKARBHAI) Chairman Sonapura Oilseeds Growers' Co-op Society Ltd.

Sd/- 2. (HIRABHAI) Secretary SOGCS Ltd.

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Annex: II (Exact copy of the original letter, which was written in English. The names of places have, however, been disguised.)

To: FA & CAO Ahmedabad

Thru: Executive (TI & E) Bhavnagar

From: District Officer Purnakothi

Date: 29/11/1983

Manavadia Area Office has forwarded (vide its letter number: INPUTS:ACCOUNT 35/83 DTD 18/11/83) the demand draft of Rs.34870/- and Rs.34870/- (Total Rs. 69740.00) bearing No. 935525 dtd 17/10/83 and 935527 dtd 18/11/83 respectively. This money was received from Sonapura society as advance against the purchase of DAP fertilizers. Under some unfavourable circumstance it is not possible to give the delivery of fertilizers within short time. The society has requested to cancell the supply of fertilizers and demanded for returning the money which was deposited to Ahmedabad office (vide above mentioned letter).

You are requested to kindly reimburse the above amount to Sonapura society through Manavadia Area Office sending demand draft.

Cc to: Executive (TI & E) Bhavnagar.

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Annex: III (Some pariculars)

Sonapura Village
Cultivated   Area under   Members'    Groundnut     Truckloads     Commitment   
land area    groundnut    area under  procured       despatched    pending      
   (acres)     (acres)     groundnut  till Dec. 6*   to Plant      wgmnt and    
.......................... (acres)     (bags)        till Dec.6    despatch as  
.....................................................  (Nos)       on Dec. 6 (bags) 

4000 3600 2800 4304 18 3047 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A break-up of procurement and commitment
                         Procured  (bags)          Committed (bags)         

Direct Purchase           3452                      2267                     

Janghad Purchase           541                       460                      

Pooling Purchase           311                       320

--------------------------------------------------------- TOTAL 4304 3047

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* Kharif procurement continues till March.


Other cases.