Apathy, heavy losses: Why farmers in Madhya Pradesh are on warpath against Shivraj Singh Chouhan govt | india-news | Hindustan Times
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Apathy, heavy losses: Why farmers in Madhya Pradesh are on warpath against Shivraj Singh Chouhan govt

This is the second year of a bumper onion crop with no buyers, forcing aggrieved farmers to dump their produce on the roads after prices plummeted.

india Updated: Jul 07, 2017 00:08 IST
Ranjan and Neeraj Santoshi
Women sorting out onions which were thrown on the roads by the agitating farmers in Bhopal on Tuesday.
Women sorting out onions which were thrown on the roads by the agitating farmers in Bhopal on Tuesday. (PTI Photo)

About one-tenth of the farmer suicides in the past 16 years in Madhya Pradesh took place in a year, between February 2016 and 2017, telling a distressing story about farm despair in the state where agriculture growth had clocked 20% since 2014-15.

Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has tom-tommed about farm sector success claiming five national Krishi Karman awards, ignoring farmers crying hoarse over poor remunerative price for their crop and increasing stranglehold of commission agents.

The situation is bad in the Malwa-Nimad region, which comprises 15 districts, including Mandsaur, where five farmers reportedly died in police firing on Tuesday. It has been the second year of a bumper onion crop with no buyers, forcing the government to announce a belated decision to procure the onions for Rs 8 per kilogram.

Farmers are angry because the government neither made arrangements to procure the crop on time nor intervened to ensure a reasonable price. They threw onions on roads given the prices of the vegetables plummeted to as low as Re 1 to Rs 2 per kg in certain markets, especially in the Malwa region, last year. This year too, farmers had to sell their winter crop — tomato and potato — at throwaway prices, bearing heavy loss.

The distress is visible in the suicide numbers. From February 2016 to mid-February 2017, 1,982 farmers and farm labourers reportedly committed suicide, which was one-fifth of the total suicides in the state, where 21,000 farmers have taken their lives in 16 years.

The National Crime Records Bureau attributed the reasons to crop failure, failure to sell produce, inability to repay loans, and other non-agriculture factors such as poverty and property disputes.

“The farmers should have been affluent if 20% growth figure given by the government is to be believed,” said former state agriculture director GS Kaushal. But, he said, the reality was that input costs were rising and government failed to ensure remunerative price.

MP farmer agitation: How the crisis unfolded
June 1: Farmers begin a ten-day-long agitation in Madhya Pradesh demanding better price for their produce
June 4: Clashes break out between police and farmers in Sehore, Indore and Bhopal districts, leaving six policemen injured
June 4 afternoon: A delegation of Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS), which is affiliated to ‘saffron parivar’, defers farmers’ agitation following a meeting with chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan in Ujjain
June 4 evening: Enraged by the announcement of BKS, other two major organisations spearheading the agitation - Rashtriya Kissan Mazdoor Sangh and Bharatiya Kisan Union - say agitation had not been called off or deferred. They decided to intensify the agitation
CM Chouhan announces MP government will procure onions at a cost of Rs 8 per kg. State BJP president Nandkumar Singh Chauhan announces farmers will honour the CM for his stand. But BKS distances itself from the felicitation
June 5: CM Chouhan hurriedly calls a press conference, blaming ‘a few people for giving a wrong direction to farmers protest’. CM announces Rs 1000 crore price stabilisation fund in scenarios where prices destabilise following bumper crop
Farmers take out a vehicle rally from Double Chowki, over 20 kms from Indore city. The rally is, however, stopped by the police on the outskirts of Indore
June 6 afternoon: Security personnel fire on protesting farmers in Mandsaur district, killing five of them. Ruckus follows as enraged farmers block road and ransack properties
June 6 evening: Rashtriya Kissan Mazdoor Sangh announces MP bandh on Wednesday till 2 pm
CM Chouhan announces judicial inquiry into the Mandsaur firing incident

Around 72% of the state’s agriculture is rain-fed and two consecutive droughts have broken the economic back-bone of farmers, who had taken high interest loans from local money lenders. Experts say crop failure rate in the rain-fed regions is high.

The state government’s zero percent interest loan benefitted some farmers. But farmers in general were not able to claim benefits again as they were not able to repay the short-term loan. This, local government officials say, pushed farmers to local money-lenders, a reason for farmers to demand loan waiver.

The government’s bid to improve horticulture and food processing is mainly confined to paper, leading to farmers not getting benefits, much like farm owners in Punjab and Haryana.