A preexisting economic crisis with a global pandemic to boot, has multiplied the suffering of debt-ridden Indian farmers. In the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, the crisis struck right in the middle of the harvesting season. Prior to the nationwide lockdown imposed due to the novel coronavirus on March 25, farmers were already reeling under crippling debt at a time when the state was going through a turbulent political overhaul.
Farmers had also faced enormous crop damage due to un-seasonal rains and they are struggling to survive without any relief from the state.
Speaking to NewsClick, Parmal Kushwaha, a farmer from Girwai village in Gwalior district said that farmers “are the worst-hit by the lockdown. This was the season for sale but the government decided to ban flower shops in the mandis and we could not sell even a single item this month and are now facing losses amounting to lakhs.” Kushwaha, who grows bottle gourd, said that farmers had been promised Rs 6,000 as compensation “but we are not sure if it will reach us. They locked everything down without thinking about what it would mean for us. The government is benefitting the traders, the vendors are minting all the profits and causing black marketing while the interests of the farmers are completely sidelined,” he added.
The newly-formed Shivraj Singh Chouhan government is facing flak for overlooking the interests of marginalised communities at the behest of traders. Previously, farmer’s bodies and ex-Chief Minister Kamal Nath had written to Chouhan, urging him to provide economic relief to the crippled farmers of the state with measures for storage, transportation and sale of farm produce.
The farmers also allege that there have been discrepancies in the selection process of providing relief to families. They claim that the state is not carrying out surveys in the villages and relief is not being distributed to those who own ration cards.
Sugreev Singh, a farmer from from Ajaypur village told NewsClick that the Rabi harvest and sale had already begun, “but the farmers are not able to reach their markets. We cultivate potatoes and cucumber and the crops need to be sold off immediately since we do not have any storage facilities. When we checked with the authorities we were threatened with FIRs instead. We are now being forced to starve as we have not received any food supplies and our harvest has been completely ruined due to the closure of the mandis.”
Speaking to NewsClick, Jaswinder Singh from the All India Kisan Sabha said that there was no farm labour to help with cultivation at a time when it is harvesting season in the state. “The government had started procuring Rabi crops from the farmers from March 25, but due to the lockdown it was all stalled. We want the crops to be purchased at the MSP (minimum support price) and most importantly, the farmers who cultivate vegetables need to be tended to. The BJP has been oblivious to the plight of the farmers,” he added.
Singh also asked why Madhya Pradesh’s name was missing from the list of thirteen states which the government is procuring pulses from. He mentioned that this was happening despite the Union Minister of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Narendra Singh Tomar, hailing from the state. “For which crime are they punishing the farmers of the state?” he asked.
The farmer leader said the state has about 4.64 lakh registered gram farmers, 1.14 lakh registered lentil farmers and 1.05 lakh farmers are listed as mustard growers in Madhya Pradesh.
Read More: MP: Ex-CM Nath, Farmers’ Body Write to Shivraj, Demand Relief During Lockdown