With onion farmers’ crisis gripping Maharashtra, the Devendra Fadnavis government in the state seems to be worried for the BJP’s electoral fortunes in the imminent general elections. With the agitations of the farmers on the ground intensifying, the Maharashtra government has decided to extend the time span of the sale that was to be covered under the subsidy scheme of Rs. 200 per quintal.
As per the initial announcement of the Rs 150-crore subsidy package for the farmers, it was applicable to only those who had sold their produce between November 1 and December 15.
Now, government has given an in-principle approval to extend the time span for the subsidy till December 31, 2018, following the backlash over its previous proposal, with many on the ground terming the subsidy a jumla and an eyewash.
The state government had earlier declared, "The decision will be applicable in the case of all onions sold between November 1 and December 15 in all the APMC (Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee) markets except Navi Mumbai. The maximum relief will be given on 200 quintals of onion sold for a farmer, which means the distressed farmer will at least get Rs. 40,000 amount in their account.”
Speaking to Newsclick, Ashok Dhawale of the All India Kisan Sabha said, “We need to understand the implementation of these schemes. The previous announcement by the government was not even implemented properly. And it is a clear sign that the BJP is nervous over its electoral prospects, as there is no substance in their claims.”
He added, “The BJP has sat on the issue for over 3-4 months in the past, they were aware of the glut for a long time; however, they did not act on this, and let the situation go out of control. Only then, did they take the last-minute action which was also not enough.”
Read more: Maharashtra Government’s Rs. 150 crore Package for Subsidy, A Jumla?
Maharashtra boasts of the highest production of the onions in the country with an export share of 80 per cent. Last week, three farmers in the onion belt of Nashik had committed suicide. They were allegedly debt-ridden, and were hit by the crop failure.
The Maharashtra government’s “relief package” of Rs. 150 crore was a move that can be branded as one that is too little, too late, given the series of agitations against the state government. The onion farmers bearing the brunt of agrarian distress have been compelled to sell fresh onions at Rs. 1/kg in the Nashik wholesale market. Maharashtra onion farmers have made their dissatisfaction with the token gesture amply clear, and have demanded the help of Rs.500–Rs. 800 per quintal. With the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, the fall in onion prices has become a serious political issue, making the BJP-led government anxious enough.
Read more: Maharashtra Farmers' Shattered Hopes in Onion Fields