Bhopal: Three farmers have died in the last two weeks while waiting in queues to sell their grain at mandis in Madhya Pradesh. The latest death was reported from Ashok Nagar district on Thursday.
Ram Singh, a 48-year-old farmer from Ashok Nagar, died, after suffering a cardiac arrest while waiting at a local mandi to sell his crops. This is the third-such death in the last week.
Earlier in the week, Jairam Mandloi, 65, from Dewas district, had been standing in a long queue in the searing heat at a wheat market, waiting for his turn to sell, when he died as a result of cardiac arrest.
Mandloi's kin said that he had gone to sell the crops after receiving a message from the market in Dewas, 150 kms from the state capital of Bhopal, on May 29. He is said to have waited for his turn in the heat for the next two days, dying on the third day.
His family said he did not have any pre-existing illnesses.
The farmer's son, Sachin, said that a tractor-driver informed the family that his father had suffered a cardiac arrest and that they were taking him to a hospital in Dewas. "When I came to Dewas from Ujjain (36 km away), they told me about his death," Sachin told NDTV.
On May 25, another farmer, 45-year-old Prem Singh, again died due to a cardiac arrest in Agar Malwa district, after having waited in a queue for six days to sell his produce.
State Agriculture Minister, Kamal Patel, reportedly said that a cardiac arrest could happen to anyone. “Anyone can suffer a heart attack…. We have bought 122 lakh tonnes of wheat. We are buying gram, we are buying wheat, which was never done by the Congress," Patel said. "Something or the other happens when we work on such a massive scale…. We will buy every single grain from farmers," he told NDTV.
Nearly 23 lakh metric tonnes of wheat damaged due to rain
Various districts of Madhya Pradesh witnessed an unusual spell of rain for about ten hours on Thursday, due to Cyclone Nisarga. The rain led to the damage of an estimated 23 lakh metric tonnes of wheat and other crops in the State.
Reports and visuals coming in from different mandis across the state indicate that a large quantity of wheat was lying in the open at the mandis, owing to the ongoing wheat procurement drive.
“Some of the wet grain was lying in open had been sold, while some was unsold,” said farmer leader Kedar Sirohi. “If mandi officials backed off from purchasing the unsold wet grain since it does not match standards of quality, what will the farmers’ do? Farmers have been waiting in queue for days,” he said.
The Opposition Congress has attacked the Bharatiya Janata Party Government, accusing it of being careless. “Lakh of metric tonnes of wheat was damaged, resulting in loss of crores of rupees. The warning for Cyclone Nisarga was given earlier but the Government overlooked it. Hence, the State government is responsible for the damage,” said former CM Kamal Nath.
After criticism from the media and the opposition over the damaged crops, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Home Minister Narottam Mishra assured that they would purchase all the grain, including the damaged lots.
During a video conference with district collectors on Thursday, CM Chouhan asked them to assure all the farmers standing outside mandis that their wheat produce will be procured by the government.
Record crop production this year, says official
The State Agriculture Department had estimated that about 100 lakh metric tonnes of wheat will be produced this year, and storage arrangements were made for the same, owing to bumper production this year. Official figures indicate that 128 lakh metric tonnes of wheat has been procured till date and that the process is in progress.
Madhya Pradesh Warehousing and Logistics Corporation said that arrangements for the storage of 100 lakh metric tonnes has been made. The move includes taking over private godowns for the purpose. “Our warehouses contains 32 lakh tonnes of wheat from the previous season. For this season, the government has asked us to make arrangements for about 100 lakh metric tonnes," State Warehousing Corporation Employees Union convener, Anil Vajpayee, said.
However, till date, the Government has procured 28 lakh metric tonnes of wheat, more than the estimate. Though the Corporation tried to protect wheat from rain by erecting a cover and plinth stalls, there was not enough time left as the cyclone caused early rain.
Denying the reports, Shiv Shekhar Shukla, Principal Secretary of the State Food and Civil Supplies Department, said that collectors from all districts have given their reports. He said that the wheat was safe and had not been destroyed so far.
Wheat procurement began from April 16, and was to end in May. However, considering the long queues of farmers at different mandis seen across the state, the government extended the procurement date to June 5.