Thousands of farmers from across Rajasthan are congregating in Sikar to protest against the silence of the Ashok Gehlot government over crashing onion prices in the state. “There is no option left but to wake up the government from its lull. We are out on the streets cooking our own food, and sleeping in the open. Nobody is going back until our demands are fulfilled,” said Pema Ram, the Rajasthan state president of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS).
He added, “The cooperative societies are becoming centres of massive corruption. The government has cheated us in the name of loan waivers. There are over 500 farmers waiting for the government to break the silence.”
The state contributes about 6 per cent to India’s onion production. Onion production in Rajasthan in 2017-18 has been estimated to be about 1.28 million tonnes. With about 50,000 onion growers in the region, Sikar district is a hub of onion cultivation in Rajasthan. This year, the production is expected to be about 4.50 to 5 lakh metric tonnes as against state’s total output of 12.80 lakh metric tonnes.
Pema Ram added, “The cost of production is high – about Rs. 8-10 per kg – while there are no buyers in the mandis, and farmers are forced to either sell their produce at really low prices or are being forced to throw it away.” The farmers’ key demands include a crop loan waiver and purchase of crops at minimum support price. With farmers not getting reasonable prices for onion, many of them have dumped the produce at Sikar mandi as they await buyers.
The farmers took out a massive rally on March 5, when protesters had burnt down the effigy of the Rajasthan Chief minister Ashok Gehlot, to highlight the failure of the Congress government in the state to implement promises made during the recently concluded Assembly elections.
On March 1, the angry and disenchanted protesters threw onions at the house of the state Minister Govind Singh Dotasra.
The momentum and the movement is only getting stronger, as AIKS, the CPI(M)-affiliated farmers’ organisation, has planned a demonstration at the Sikar collectorate and on mandi premises on March 22 to demand government’s intervention.
Also read: Farmers Protest in Sikar, Rajasthan, Demand Fair Price for Produce