Farmers’ Movement: Unity Being Forged on Roads and in Farms
In the absence of proper arrangement, the chilly wind shudders everyone inside the tents. Jagannath Singh Dhakar, a farmer from Madhya Pradesh, wraps his khaddar blanket tighter around him for some warmth. No immediate relief seems to be in sight to stop the wind passing through the gaps.
Dhakar, along with his friends and comrades from MP are camping at the National Highway 19 in Haryana’s Palwal to protest against the three farm laws, which the farmers are referring to as a ‘trap for death’.
Talking about his reason for joining the contingent, Dhakad, a member of All India Kisan Sabha, said that uncertainty and nose diving prices of produce is silently killing the farmers. At the same time, the administration and the Bharatiya Janata Party led government in Madhya Pradesh is now a party to this plunder by the middlemen, big traders and seed and fertiliser companies.
Dhakad had sowed Pearl millet (bajra) in his 3.5 acre farm in Morena. Explaining the costs of the produce and returns, he told NewsClick, “After ploughing the land, we apply DAP fertiliser and urea to increase the fertility of the land. Both cost Rs 1,200 and Rs 464, respectively. Then we spread the seeds across the farms, which cost about Rs 1,200. Once the crop grows, we apply pesticides and herbicides to curb the menace of pests and weeds which costs about Rs 1,200 and Rs 2,400, respectively. The crop needs water in its initial phase for which we spend around Rs 800 on Diesel (for the water pump).”
He went on to add, “After waiting for few days, pesticides are applied again with the help of workers. While pesticides cost Rs 800, each worker needs to be paid Rs 400. Since it’s a labour intensive crop, it takes 24 workers to cut and bundle the crop. This comes at a cost of Rs 9,600. Then, the crop is taken to a thresher to extract the millets. That costs another Rs 1,200.”
The produce is then taken home on a tractor, which charges Rs 25 per quintal for transportation. For Dhakad’s 35 quintal produce, he had to invest Rs 19,450 per acre. However, he said, “I had two advantages in comparison with other farmers, I sold my produce at MSP because I am literate and have the capacity to store. Second, I grow on my own land. Other people take land on rent and grow. Now, the MSP for millets was Rs 2,150. With my produce of 10 quintal per acre, I got Rs 21,500 per acre i.e. a mere profit of Rs 2,000 per acre. Due to such returns, we are forced to run to banks for loans and become indebted. Please remember the situation is much worse for tenant farmers.”
Sitting besides Singh, Uday Dhakad narrated his ordeal about his produce of another crop (urad) which he sowed in three acres. After calculating the costs, Dhakad said that it took him about Rs 6,800 per acre but the crop perished due to deficit in rains. He was able to harvest only one quintal per acre which would hardly fetch him Rs 10,000.
Jaswinder Singh, state secretariat member of AIKS MP, emphasised that it is not only low prices and unpredictable weather which put the farmers at peril, the corrupt administration, which appears to be hand-in-glove with seed and fertiliser companies over supply of spurious material, are also responsible.
He said, “We have come across several thousand complaints of farmers who alleged that they were provided spurious seeds by a particular company in Chhatarpur District. The farmers were complaining that the seeds could not grow effectively and the produce suffered immensely. When we held protests, then Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan ordered an enquiry into the matter. Interestingly, the entire enquiry was done by junior level police officers instead of an agricultural scientist.”
“The officer concluded that the farmers were ignorant about the seeds and harvested the crop in 90 days instead of 120 days. How can a police official conduct such an enquiry when he has no expertise in the matter? I think it was deliberately given to police to provide a safe escape to the guilty company whereas the farmers suffered and even did not get the compensation either from the company or government,” he added.
The protest site at NH 19 also has significant participation by Sikhs from Gwalior who are enraged about the deliberate imposition of farm laws. On being asked about Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar’s proposal about return of farmers towards cash crops, Avtar Singh from Gwalior said, “If they are so concerned about increasing returns for the farmers, what were they doing for the last seven year? They should have implemented the Swaminathan Commission’s report from day one. They should have given farmers what the report recommended. It is all rubbish.”
Explaining further about his experience he told NewsClick, I sold my fine rice 1718 ( a type of Basmati Rice) at Rs 1,800 per quintal whereas the same rice is sold by big brands at Rs 100 per kilo. We met the farmers from Gujarat the other day at this protest who were visiting us to extend their solidarity and they categorically said that there is no Gujarat model. When they were coming for protest, they were detained and arrested. Is this how they wish to rule?”
Local Farmers Extend Support
Another important aspect of the protest appears to be the growing support of the local farmers. “When we had camped here for the first few days, local people came to us and complained about the choked traffic, the marriages which would be affected due to blocking of highways in neighbouring villages. But when they came to know about the reason of protest through television and other mediums about the farm laws, they started supplying us vegetables, milk, ghee and other provisions. We are forging a unity with our brethren everywhere now,” said Singh.
Vijen Singh, who came from neighbouring Dighaut, said that the local support would only grow since the panchayats have recently held a meeting and extended their support. “Today, we came with 10 trolleys but the number would only grow. It’s just a matter of time,” he added.
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