Ground Report: Farmers In Faridabad Struggle With Prices, Say Modi Has Done Nothing For Them
“If this government had helped farmers as much as it has helped businessmen, we wouldn't be hungry today.”
“Kheti karna bas ab majboori hai (I’m forced to farm now),” said thirty-two-years old Rohit Tyagi, who owns 15 acres of farmland in the Fatehpur village of Faridabad, Haryana. “Koi profit nahin hai (There’s no profit at all).”
Tyagi grows rice in summer and wheat during the winter, but he is unhappy with the minimum support prices. He said that he was unable to recover his cost of production. He underlined that fertilisers had become expensive, chemicals rates had gone up, the production costs had increased, and the selling price of the crops had either dropped down or remained the same. He added with some anger, “Sarkar ham kisano ki liye kuch nahin karti, hoardings lagati hai bas (This government does nothing for us farmers. All it does is advertise).”
He feels cheated by the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that came to power in 2014 with promises of doubling farmer income. In the last five years, however, farmers are yet to receive a fair MSP. He said, “Gehun ki MSP kam se kam 2,100 se 2,200 honi chahiye (The MSP for wheat should at least be Rs 2,100 to Rs 2,200).”
The government, according to Tyagi, has two faces — one for the rich, and another for the poor. He explained, “If a businessman takes a loan for his business and fails, the government helps him. But if the same happens to farmers, the government doesn’t.”
Tyagi also appears unimpressed with the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna — a flagship programme of the BJP, inaugurated in 2016 with much fanfare. He said that it’s a useless scheme. He added, “Bima se kisaano ka koi fayeda nahin, bekaar hai (The insurance is of no use to farmers).”
His sixty-three-year old uncle, Mahendra Tyagi, pointed out that farmers were not fooled; they understood what was happening. He said that the PMFBY was designed to help big corporations, not farmers. He suggested that instead of giving private companies money, the government should use that money as disaster relief for the farmer.
According to figures obtained under the Right to Information Act by The Indian Express from the Agricultural Insurance Company of India, the total premium collected under the scheme was Rs 22, 437 crores, while claims made by farmers amounted to Rs 8,087.23 crore as on July 25, 2017.
Many farmers in the area alleged that they were being cheated, their produce regularly under-weighed by the arthi — a middleman. Mahendra said that besides this, they had to additionally bear the cost of two kilos of wheat per 100 kilos — a price they had to pay the middleman. He said, “Sarkar MSP fix karti hai Rs 1,840 lekin hamein bichaoliye ke yahan se final 1,750 tak hi milta hai (Government fixes MSP at Rs 1,840 but we never get more than Rs 1,750 at the markets).”
However, when Newscentral24x7 asked Bablu, a middleman in the Ballabhgarh Anaj Mandi, about the allegations of under-weighing crops, he denied it and called it “baseless”.
Mahendra said that the government ensures the ease-of-doing-business of rich people only, not farmers. “Here we face the everyday problem of irrigation facilities, untimely electricity, shortage of seeds, chemicals and unavailability of urea.”
Devinder Sharma, renowned agriculture economist and policy analyst, had noted in September 2017, “the MSP for wheat in 1970 was 76 rupees a quintal. The salary of school teachers in 1970 was 90 rupees a month. We did an analysis in 2015, the price wheat is 1400 rupees a quintal, which means 19 times increased in 45 years. And the salary of school teachers in the same period has gone up by 280 times”. He added “we have deliberately kept the prices low. That’s a reality”.
Speaking to the Hindustan Times, Himanshu, an associate professor of economics at the Jawaharlal Nehru University had said, “The crisis of price growth in agriculture is a political economy problem. The present government has been trying to appease rating agencies and middle class at the cost of domestic economy and farmers by low inflation through keeping food prices depressed”.
The BJP government’s recent announcement that it would provide an assistance of Rs 6,000 per year to small and marginal farmers has evoked a sharp reaction from the distressing farming community.
Bharam Singh, a small farmer with about four acres of land in the Fatehpur village, is eligible to receive the first instalment of Rs 2,000. He said that it comes down to Rs 500 a month and that is just not enough. ” He added, “Itne ka to beej tak nahin aata (You don’t even get seeds for that much).”
Singh believes that agriculture alone has the potential to reboot the economy, and can sustain the livelihood of millions, thereby reducing the pressure of job creation. He said that if farmers were paid their legitimate dues, the face of agriculture would have been bright. But the government has refused to take steps for ease of doing farming.
He told NewsCentral24x7, “If this government had helped farmers as much as it has helped businessmen, we wouldn’t be hungry today.” He demanded that the government ensure that their crops sell at fair prices. He added that such was his situation, he had been forced to take up extra work as a manual labourer.
Lakhmi Saini, a small vegetable farmer in the neighbouring village Dhauj, grows carrot and potatoes in his mall patch of land. As per him, carrot cost five rupees per kilo. He said that the wholesale price of carrots is Rs 3 to Rs 4 per kilo in the Faridabad Sabji Mandi. Saini pointed out that if transportation and labour costs were added, his total cost would stand 6-7 rupees a Kg. He laments being unable to sustain his family at rates as abysmal as these.
Saini said that household expenditure has increased but his income has dropped down in the last three or four years. He said that the cost of health and education had gone up in a massive way under this government.
Speaking to Business Standard, NITI Aayog member Ramesh Chand had accepted that terms of trade had moved decisively against the agriculture. “Growth rate in farmers income in real terms remained much lower than the growth rate in their output,” he said.
As Faridabad all set cast their votes on May 12, these farming community could spoil the BJP’s winning chances. For farmers, the Congress promising to put them on the path from “Karz Maafi”, to “Karz Mukti” is a ray of hope. The Congress has also promised in its manifesto ‘Ham Nibhayenge’, a newly designed Fasal Bima along with much more for farmers. The BJP’s campaign, on the other hand, has been all about “Majboot Sarkar“.
Krishan Pal Gurjar of BJP seeks votes in the name of nationalism, referring to the surgical strike and air strike against Pakistan, while Congress candidate Avtar Singh Bhadana has been campaigning on the plank of NYAY. The Faridabad Lok Sabha constituency is spread across nine assembly constituencies of Faridabad and Palwal district with three each held by the Congress and BJP.
Reacting on a reporter’s comment farmer’s said, “Modi ji ne kisaano ko ke liye to kuch nahin kiya hai, dekhiye 23 May kya hota hai” — Modi has done nothing for farmers. Let’s see what happens on May 23.