Hyderabad: Telangana’s turmeric farmers have intensified their stir demanding that the central government sets up a turmeric board in Nizamabad district. Besides participating in everyday protests in support of the ongoing nation-wide farmers’ movement demanding the repeal of new farm laws, the turmeric farmers, under the leadership of the platform ‘Rythu Aikya Vedika’ (Turmeric Farmers Joint Action Committee), have also been agitating with the demand for remunerative prices for turmeric.
On January 9 and 10, hundreds of farmers staged a ‘Rasta Roko’ on NH 44 near Mamidipally village in Nizamabad. Rythu Aikya Vedika, an umbrella group of representatives from different farmers’ organisations, which is leading the protests, has demanded the state and central governments to set up a Turmeric Board and ensure minimum procurement prices for turmeric and red jowar crops in the region.
Nizamabad farmers have long been demanding the central government to set up a Turmeric Board in the region. In the 2019 elections, over 170 turmeric farmers contested elections bringing the Nizamabad constituency into spotlight to highlight their demand for setting up the Turmeric board. At that time, BJP candidate Dharmapuri Aravind gave a written promise that he would convince the Centre to set up the board if he was elected as MP. He eventually won in the election.
“Even after more than one and half years of being elected as MP, Aravind did not keep his promise of setting up a central government’s turmeric board. The situation of farmers has become worse and the minimum support prices are realised only through protests in Nizamabad district,” said Mamidi Rajashekar Reddy, a turmeric farmer who contested for the Nizamabad seat.
Turmeric is produced on about 1.33 acres of land in Telangana, which produces an estimated 2.67 metric tonnes of crop, as per the state government data from 2017-18. Erstwhile districts of Nizamabad, Karimnagar, Warangal and Adilabad account for over 90% turmeric production in the state.
Tammineni Veerabhadram, secretary of state of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), said that the turmeric board and increasing MSP for turmeric to Rs 15,000 per quintal have been long-pending demands of the farmers in North Telangana. “Instead of convincing the central government to set up the turmeric board, MP Aravind is doing temple politics in the state,” said Veerabhadram and called upon the farmers’ groups to intensify their struggle.
Members of Rythu Aikya Vedika are arguing that the price of the turmeric crop has crashed to Rs 4,000 to Rs 5,000 per quintal whereas the production cost is Rs 8,000 to Rs 9,000 per quintal.
“Turmeric cultivation has got a huge cultural significance in the region. Farmers put in all their efforts for nine months for producing turmeric crops but are ending up in losses due to several reasons such as low MSP, quality of the crop produce and damage to the crop among other things. Farmers believe that a turmeric board will address the problems and help farmers in realising better prices,” said Reddy.
“At a time when there is a dire need for increasing and ensuring MSP on agriculture produce, the central and state governments are not only ignoring the farmers’ concerns but inciting fear among them with their new farm laws,” he added.
Since November last year, farmers’ organisations in the state have been protesting against the new farm laws as part of the nation-wide farmers’ movement against corporatisation of agriculture.
Telangana Rythu Sangham has been organising a ‘Bus Jatha’ or ‘Bus Yatra’ since January 1, travelling across districts, mandals and remote villages and campaigning about the ongoing farmers’ movement. “There has been a significant rise in support of the farmers’ movement as we realised during the Bus Jatha,” said T Sagar, secretary of the Sangham. Calling the farm laws ‘black’, Sagar said that the farmers’ protest in the state will continue until the laws are repealed. “Farmers are demanding an increase in government-led procurement centres and MSP for agriculture produce,” he said.
Farmer organisations have earlier announced an action plan for leading a series of protests in the state against the farm laws.
Meanwhile, the opposition Telangana Congress has begun sit-in dharnas in front offices of tehsildars and collectorates across all districts in the state. The party leaders are questioning why the state CM K Chandrashekar Rao has taken a “U -turn” on his earlier stand of opposing the farm laws.