After 160 years of ‘Nil Bidroho’, the iconic peasant movement over cultivation of one of the original sources of blue dye--Indigo, many growers in Rangpur are now making a fortune by planting that very plant.
According to the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE), about 3,000 acres of land in the northern district are currently under indigo cultivation.
About 2,000 farmers in Rajendrapur and Paglapir of Rangpur Sadar upazila are involved in the process.
People who are engaged in other jobs are also planting indigo seeds to generate some extra income.
“We collect the seeds from Living Blue, a local indigo leaf processing factory, and sow them by the roads,” Dinesh Chandra Roy, a farmer of Goalpara village in Sadar upazila, told this paper on August 29.
“The cultivation starts at the end of February while harvesting starts at the end of July and continues for three months,” said Dinesh, who so far has earned Tk 3,000 by selling the leaves.
Living Blue, which was set up in 2008 in Rajendrapur, buys indigo leaves from the farmers at Tk 3 per kilogram, said Husne Mubarak Bappy, assistant production manager of the factory.
“The annual production target is 1,000 kilogram blue dye,” he said.
Subhash Chandra Barman, a farmer of Rajendrapur, has been planting indigo seeds since 2008 on his 50 decimals of land.
“There are many advantages of indigo plantation. It requires less irrigation, pesticides and manpower. This helps growers to reduce production cost.
“A farmer can harvest leaves at least thrice and earn Tk 20,000 to Tk 22,000 in a season,” Subhash said, adding, “Besides, the dried plants can be used as fuel.”
After meeting the local demand, the indigo dye produced in Rangpur are now being exported to different countries including America, France, Germany, India, Singapore, Canada and Japan, according to Mubarak.
“Each kilogram of pure indigo dye is sold at Tk 4,000,” he said.
Dr Mohammad Sarwarul Haque, deputy director of Rangpur DAE, said, “Indigo farming is more convenient compared to other crops so more farmers are going for it.”
Indigo processing regained popularity among farmers in Rangpur region over the last 15 years.
According to Banglapedia, indigo production and export was a booming business in Bengal province in the early 19th century. But it depressed in the 1840s and ‘50s and as a result, the profit from indigo production turned uneconomic at the raiyat or peasant level.
Hence the peasants refused to grow indigo but the planters, who had already invested huge capital and were not able to withdraw quickly, put pressure on the peasants to continue production.
The consequent conflict between the peasants and the planters led to open resistance from peasants which is called the ‘Indigo Revolt’ or ‘Nil Vidroha’. It arose in Jashore and Nadia district in the Indian state of West Bengal in 1859 and quickly spread to other districts.
It continued till 1862 when government interfered in favour of the peasants.