Five farmers have committed suicide in Rajasthan’s Hadauti region in April-May this year, allegedly due to the low prices of the garlic crop in the state. Farmers are alleging that even the state government’s Market Intervention Scheme (MIS), which was intended to procure the garlic produce, has failed miserably.
In April, hundreds of farmers protested at the district collectorates against the low prices in Hadauti region, which comprises of Kota, Bundi, Jhalawar and Baran districts. This region alone accounts for about 90% of the state’s garlic production.
Despite getting approval from the Central government to implement MIS on April 12, the Rajasthan State Co-operative Marketing Federation Limited (RAJFED) had delayed the garlic procurement for two weeks, which began from April 26. Reportedly, as of May 12, RAJFED had procured only 1,482 metric tonnes of garlic at Rs 3,257 per quintal. This is less than 1 percent of the government’s target of procuring 1.54 lakh metric tonne. The government had earlier announced that it would procure the crop till May 31. This suggests that how the state government is dealing with the crisis.
On the other side, with numerous restrictions on farmers to sell their produce under MIS scheme, farmers are selling their produce at throwaway prices which has been causing distress among them. Presently, in Kota wholesale mandi (market), the crop price has dipped to Rs 200-700 per quintal. The net area under garlic cultivation in Rajasthan has increased from 69,000 hectares (2016-17) to 1.32 lakh hectare (2017-2018) and the production of garlic has also doubled from 3.77 lakh metric tonnes (previous year) to 7.7 lakh metric tonne this year.
Over the past five-six years, Hadauti farmers have started the cultivation of garlic, a labour-intensive crop, which means high cost of production. While in the initial years, farmers have benefitted from this crop, with many more farmers switching to garlic farming, the production has increased, leading to a price crash in the last two years.
Opposition parties- Congress and CPI(M) have alleged that despite the increasing farmer’s distress in the state, the government is not even acknowledging the farmers’ suicides in the state. The All India Kisan Sabha, too, has demanded the government to implement Minimum Support price instead of MIS.
The garlic glut is also causing unrest among farmers in Madhya Pradesh, the largest grower of the crop, accounting for 31 percent of the total output. It’s followed by Rajasthan, which accounts for nearly 24 percent. Earlier this month, garlic farmers in Madhya Pradesh’s Neemuch and Mandsaur districts in Malwa region also protested against the crashing prices. Reportedly, the garlic prices have plunged as low as Rs 1 per kg.
Last year in June, when farmers in Malwa region protested demanding minimum crop prices, six farmers were killed in the police firing.