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UP: Depressed Over Low Yields, Farmer Dies of 'Shock'

Kumar of Fatehpur Sikri had three daughters and his family was dependent on agriculture as their main source of livelihood
low yield

Lucknow: Reeling under a financial crisis, with an outstanding loan of Rs 16 lakh and unable to make his living out of 15 bighas (One bigha is around 27,000 square feet in UP)  of agricultural land that he had taken on lease, Sushil Kumar Modi (48), a tenant farmer, died of shock on Monday after finding low yield of potato this season.

Kumar had sown potato on his 15 biswa and had taken another 15 bighas on lease. On Monday, he died at Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi after a week of treatment. 

Kumar of Fatehpur Sikri had three sons and his family was dependent on agriculture as their main source of livelihood. He had taken 15 bighas of land on lease at the rate of Rs 15,000 per bigha on which he had cultivated potatoes. His input cost came to around Rs  6,00,000. He suffered a massive loss of Rs 5 lakh due to unfavourable weather last week. 

According to Dabbu Solanki, the deceased farmer’s neighbour, a total of Rs 1.5 lakh rupees of potatoes were produced after potatoes were excavated due to which he was under depression. 

Solanki speaking with NewsClick said Kumar's case is not isolated in Agra. The potato growers in the region are going through a huge economic crisis and the situation is such that they can contemplate dying by suicide if the government does noot pay heed. 

The family members of victim Sushil Kumar Modi, who was under a debt of over Rs 16 lakh, said he was worried because of the unexpectedly low yield of potato crops this season. The victim owned 15 Biswas of land in his native village in Suphara. They said he had taken half of the total loan from a private bank.

On March 22, his condition suddenly started deteriorating; he had a brain haemorrhage. "We took him to the district hospital in Agra, from where he was referred to Delhi. We had admitted him to the neurosurgery department of Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi, where he died after five days of treatment," Sushila Devi, the deceased’s wife, told NewsClick. 

She further added, "My husband feared that he would not be able to return the instalment of loans he had taken from different sources. He shared this concern with me even immediately after he suffered a huge loss."

Distraught, Sushila further said her husband was reeling under pressure ever since he harvested his potato crop last week. The yield was very low as compared to previous years as crops were damaged due to hailstorms and untimely rain.

Unseasonal rains in the last weeks, along with hailstorms across the state, have caused some damage to the standing wheat and mustard crops, shattering the dreams of a bumper harvest for farmers, NewsClick reported earlier. 

Untimely rain had flattened a large portion of crops on fields. In some areas, the problem of waterlogging led to the destruction of potato crops. 

Shyam Singh Chahar, a farmer leader in Agra said higher input costs and low profits force farmers into a debt trap and they are dying due to shock when they are not able to pay the loan they had taken from banks, money lenders or Kisan Credit Card.

"If all the expenditures are counted together and added with the labour cost,  production costs range and mandi charges, expenditure on transportation and packaging cost, the input cost will be around Rs 60,000 per bigha. But potato growers are barely getting Rs 700 for a quintal (100 kgs) which is not even half of the input cost if we calculate," Chahar told NewsClick. 

Meanwhile, farmers have been demanding to fix a Minimum Support Price (MSP) for potatoes at Rs 1,500 per quintal in a bid to encourage the potato growers.

"If the government fixes Rs 1,500 per quintal MSP on potatoes then only the farmer will recover the input, not the benefit. Unfortunately, Uttar Pradesh has the highest potato production in the country. It shares around 35% of the country's total production but the potato is being sold at Rs 600-700 per quintal here while Rs 2,500 per quintal in Maharashtra," Sanjeev Yadav, a farmer in Etawah told NewsClick.

Yadav said the government should bring potato policy like sugarcane policy and also build potato processing units in the state. 

"Before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, PM Narendra Modi, while addressing a mega rally, spoke about the need for a potato processing unit in Agra. It has been more than eight years since farmers in the region have been waiting to fulfil his promise," the farmer leader said.

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