1088Published on April 29, 2023
During Khaleda Zia's tenure as prime minister from 2001 to 2006, farmers suffered significant losses due to the scarcity of electricity for irrigation. Furthermore, the BNP-Jamaat leaders' involvement in a scandal prevented small farmers from planting their crops altogether. The power crisis left farmers with no choice but to rely on diesel or kerosene to power their irrigation pumps, which were also subject to price fixing by the BNP leaders. The coalition government's corruption and embezzlement further exacerbated the situation, resulting in a decrease in food grain production each year. As a consequence, many small farmers were compelled to abandon cultivation in multiple areas due to the black market for fertilizers. These farmers were forced to migrate from one town to another in search of food and work as daily laborers.
The leading newspapers' pictorial reports during the Khaleda Zia government from 2004 to 2006 revealed the ghastly exploitation and corruption. The BNP-Jamaat leaders were involved in hoarding fertilizers from the market and selling them at exorbitant prices to a select few wealthy farmers after creating a crisis. This made fertilizers unaffordable for most ordinary farmers. The BNP leaders also resorted to the despicable act of producing counterfeit fertilizers, which they sold to farmers, leaving them penniless. Despite law enforcement agencies catching the fake fertilizer factories and smugglers red-handed, no action was taken due to BNP leaders' interference.
50,000 Hectares of Boro Crops Damaged in Barendra Region Due to Fertilizer Shortage in 2004
On March 21, 2004, Janakantha news reported that approximately 50,000 hectares of boro plantations in the Barendra and Diyar regions suffered damage due to a two-week-long fertilizer and irrigation crisis. Despite the government setting the price of urea fertilizer at Tk 290, it was unavailable even at Tk 400 in Chapainawabganj. The majority of the district's 50 fertilizer dealers were involved in BNP-Jamaat politics and had formed a syndicate to increase profits, making fertilizer unaffordable for farmers. As a consequence, small-scale farmers were unable to cultivate crops due to a lack of fertilizers.
BNP Leaders Accused of Fraud with Farmers by Distributing Fake Fertiliser in 2005
As per a report published in the daily Janakantha on November 3, 2005, the Khaleda Zia regime witnessed BNP-Jamaat leaders and activists mercilessly targeting farmers by forming a fertilizer syndicate and increasing fertilizer prices for five consecutive years. The BNP leaders would inflate the price of genuine fertilizers and also produce counterfeit fertilizers, which they sold to unsuspecting farmers. The proliferation of fake fertilizers across the country had a severe impact on farmers' crop yields. As protests erupted nationwide, police conducted a raid in Dinajpur's Khansama upazila, arresting two individuals with fake fertilizer materials.
Then the locals said that the owner of the nameless rice mill was a BNP leader. Ever since the coalition government came to power, he had been manufacturing and marketing 18 types of fake fertilizers. Under the patronage of Upazila Chhatra Dal president and cinema hall owner Tariqul Islam Rajeev, fake fertilizers were made from husks, brick powder and burnt mobil. Even though the police caught everything red-handed at one stage due to public pressure, on the recommendation of BNP leaders, they dropped the name of the mill owners from the complaint by filing a case only in the name of the fake fertilizer mill workers.
According to the newspaper dated May 18, BNP leaders were intimately involved with the black market of fertilizers across the country. The followers of Khaleda Zia and Tarique Rahman broke the backbone of the agriculture-based economy through syndicated double and triple fertilizer prices, taking government fertilizers beyond the reach of farmers, opening fake fertilizer factories and doing illegal business, cheating farmers, giving money etc. Even though the people held protests in different parts of the country against smuggling of fertilizers and illegal hoarders of fertilizers, the government did not take any action.
With the support of the high command of the BNP-Jamaat government in the fertilizer scam of the activists, it spread from the capital to the villages. As a result, BNP leaders started taking regular commissions from these black marketers in different parts of the country. As a result, the black marketeers of fertiliers were caught by the people and handed over to the law enforcement agencies, but the BNP leaders used to take them away. Just like that - mob seized a cargo with 5000 sacks of fertilizer in the Meghna River in Daulatkhane of Bhola. At that time three people were arrested from the cargo. But the BNP leaders released the cargo and detainees in exchange of a huge sum of money.
BNP-Jamaat Leaders' Fertilizer Looting Leads to 50% Drop in Crop Production in 2006
A pictorial report by Janakantha on February 28, 2006, revealed that the mismanagement and corruption in the fertilizer industry persisted during the BNP-Jamaat coalition government's last year in power, just as it had in previous years. In fact, the fertilizer scam that had plagued the government from 2002 to 2005 worsened in 2006. The BNP-Jamaat leaders prioritized gross corruption and irregularities over the well-being of farmers, resulting in significant losses for them in the last year of the government. The report showed that the stock of urea had dropped to zero, and despite countrywide protests by farmers demanding access to fertilizer, the government could not provide them with any assurance of supply.
Even MPs and ministers of the government did not import fertilizers for the farmers as they were busy with terrorist syndicates to hold power illegally at the end of the term. At the beginning of the boro season, a severe fertilizer crisis hit, with a shortage of 122,000 tons of urea affecting crop yields. Due to the rampant fertilizer corruption by the BNP-Jamaat coalition government, the country's food production system was nearly halved, causing poverty to increase across all levels of society. Khaleda Zia's government continued this trend of fertilizer scams, leading to famine and hunger for five years since taking office in 2001. Additionally, the government falsely accused farmers of fertilizer theft to stifle their legitimate movement and demands.
According to the news article dated February 23, 2006, farmers staged protests in front of various government offices, including the Upazila Executive Officer and Upazila Parishad, demanding fair prices for fertilizers. Since the BNP leaders only provided fertilizer to those who were recommended by their party, they became enraged. As a result, small-scale farmers blocked roads in every district of the country, including Satkhira, Narail, Gopalganj, Mymensingh, Thakurgaon, and Narayanganj.
Meanwhile, news reports on February 21 held the role and inaction of then Industry Minister and Amir of Jamaat Matiur Rahman Nizami accountable for fertilizer crisis. According to the reports, the ministry failed to import sufficient fertilizer before the full Boro season due to the minister's apathy. Instead of ensuring equitable distribution, a handful of businessmen with close ties to the government were entrusted with the responsibility of fertilizer, leading to widespread looting and hoarding. Meanwhile, farmers across the country were desperately crying out for fertilizers.
BNP-Jamaat Government Accused of Selling Government Fertilizers in Black Market and Attacking Farmers through Party Terrorists
According to a news report dated April 20, 2006, amidst a severe fertilizer crisis in the country, BNP-Jamaat leaders were involved in the illegal sale of 100 metric tons of BCCI's fertilizer in the black market at Bagha in Rajshahi. The locals revealed that all three dealers in Rajshahi, who were involved in the illegal sale, had their homes in Pabna district, which was the home district of Industries Minister Nizami. Although the dealership was meant to be given to local dealers, none of them had a home in Rajshahi. They issued fake vouchers and sold the fertilizer at higher prices in the black market instead of selling it to the public at a fair price. After farmers' strong protests, the government officials acknowledged the irregularities by the dealers.
According to news reports on February 15, it was revealed that Jubo Dal leaders had stolen fertilizer from farmers in Jamalpur and sold it in the black market for a higher price. In response, shopkeepers in Hajipur market of Sadar upazila went on strike and closed their shops in protest. Jubo Dal organizing secretary of Mesta Union, Farooq, and Picchi Samiul, along with some farmers, looted 11 sacks of urea fertilizer from a horse cart on Hajipur-Melandah road. This Jubo Dal leader had previously been accused of murdering a rickshaw puller during a shop robbery in Hajipur market. He was released on bail and resumed looting after the BNP-Jamaat government released party terrorists from jail before the elections.
According to a news report in Janakantha on March 10, 2006, Industries Minister and Jamaat leader Matiur Rahman Nizami claimed that the fertilizer crisis, which had led to nationwide protests against the BNP-Jamaat leaders, was created by the media. However, the report shows that rice production had decreased over the past four years of the coalition government due to the crisis, and the government did not acknowledge or address the issue. In contrast, Nizami, who was an Al Badr leader during the 1971 war, made a cruel joke about the plight of 80 percent of the country's farmers. He even claimed that there was no fertilizer crisis and that sufficient stock was available in the country, despite the ongoing protests.
News reports on March 6 said that during the fertilizer crisis, BNP leaders were reportedly involved in the looting of sacks of fertilizer bought with loan money from poor farmers. In one instance, a truckload of fertilizer was looted under the direction of BNP leader Kazi Kamrul from Bandbila Union in Jessore's Bagharpara, and despite police efforts, it was not recovered.
As per the news report dated March 2, it was mentioned that rural farmers in Jessore were subjected to attacks by BNP terrorists while they were taking fertilizer.
As per the news article dated April 2, 2006, a BNP leader in Lalmonirhat created an artificial shortage of urea fertilizer and stole crores of rupees from the farmers. He was reportedly close to Deputy Minister Dulu and managed to bypass other fertilizer dealers to exclusively stockpile the fertilizer. During the peak season, he increased the price and illegally earned crores of rupees.
According to the news report on March 1, Ukhiya BNP leader of Cox's Bazar and Palongkhali UP chairman Mazharul Sifat Chowdhury were involved in smuggling fertilizer to Myanmar during the entire tenure of the coalition government. The BDR members raised this issue during a meeting on law and order.