IF POLITICS makes for strange bedfellow so, apparently, does politically induced hardship. Extortionate power tariffs, erratic supply and a desperate shortage of urea has led people on opposite ends of the rural spectrum to make common cause with marginal farmers and landed gentry coming together on the same platform.
Though they live within a few miles of each other fifty-something Morari Lal of Kaylana village and Daiji Garadia resident Ashok Chaudhary had never crossed paths.
The former belongs to the landed gentry and, although inheritance has whittled the family’s once extensive holdings to some 200-odd bighas (1.75 bighas equal an acre), has always commanded respect from fellow villagers.
Chaudhary, on the other hand, is at the bottom of the agrarian totem pole barely eking out enough income from his two-bigha tract to keep his wife and three kids fed despite sweating it out all year long.
Both turned up at Guna MP Jyotiraditya Scindia’s rally at Sanwer on Wednesday, voting with their feet to protest imposition of flat power rates, erratic supply and unavailability of urea.
Said Chaudhary, “After Uma Bharti’s promise of “pay-as-you-use” we paid between Rs 400-500 for power during the Rabi season (November-January) and Rs 12 per month for the rest of the year. But now MPEB (sic) is charging a flat monthly rate of Rs 800 regardless of power consumed”.
Failure to pay results in tillers being arrested on trumped up charges of power theft, he alleged. “We earn just enough to get by. If we pay Rs 7,000-9,000 demanded by the MPEB how are we going to survive”, lamented the villager.
Complaints to the administration have gone unheeded. “Nobody listens to us poor folk. Aap hi chhaap dena to shayad kuchh ho jaaye. (Please publish this then something might happen), he pleaded.
Things aren’t much better for larger landholders, as Murari Lal is quick to point out. “As our requirements are greater the urea shortage has hit us much harder than smaller farmers. Wheat, for instance, requires 2-3 top dressing of urea during crop growth stages with an average of 2 quintals per acre. So I’ll have to spend a lakh rupees for urea dressing my 200 bighas at the current rate of Rs 350 per quintal”, he stated.
Bystander Kamal Singh, who owns 30 bighas in Kulavat village around 8 kms from the rally venue, nods vigorously. “Urea kits must be made available in smaller sizes for smaller farmers who are reluctant to purchase 50 kg bags for fear of wastage”.
Ram Chander, another small farmer who has trekked to Sanwer for the rally suggests the introduction of usage-linked power tariffs. “Why should someone who uses 20 units be charged the same as a 20,000 unit consumer”.
Going by the reactions one thing is clear, the BJP regime has sowed the wind by failing to address basic needs of farmers. It better take remedial action if it doesn’t want to reap an electoral whirlwind.