Mahesh Chouhan squints against the afternoon sun as he drives his tractor across the field. He has finished sowing wheat on just half of his nine-acre field in Madhya Pradesh.
Work has been delayed this year as Chouhan lost several hours standing in a queue at the local Central Bank of India branch to withdraw money to buy seeds and fertilisers for preparing the field. Like other farmers, he still has not been able to withdraw enough money to meet all expenses.
The government’s sudden announcement to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 banknotes has created ripples in the agrarian economy of Dharampuri village, which falls on Indore-Ujjain highway.
Farmers here have just two complaints – the announcement has come in the middle of the harvest/sowing season and the government agencies distributing seeds and fertilizers have refused to accept the old high-value notes.
“When the government can give exception to petrol pumps, then it should have also included cooperative agencies selling seeds and fertilisers in the exemption list,” Chouhan said.
Most farmers use the money from the sale of produce to buy fertilisers and seeds and then get the field ready for the next sowing cycle. The sudden withdrawal of high-value currency has either left the farmers flush with ‘dead’ cash that they now need to exchange at the banks or they are yet to get payment from the middleman and traders, who don’t have the new currency.
“Luckily I deposited a big portion of my money to pay an installment for my tractor loan before November 8. Otherwise, I would have faced more hassles. This is the time that we have to spend on the fields and not stand in a queue,” he said.
The situation has become worse as all the three ATMs in and around the village were non-functional. “Our problem will somewhat ease when the ATMs become operational and the government raises the daily limit of currency withdrawal,” Chouhan said.
Farmers want special arrangement for rural sector
Left in a lurch, farmers have now urged the government to make special arrangements for the rural sector, such as supplying the krishi upaj mandi (agriculture produce market) with the new currency so that farmers could be paid for their supplies.
“We have taken a series of steps to ease the cash flow, including arrangements for providing cheque books to traders at the mandis to facilitate hefty payments. Also, the farmers who wish to store their produces in mandi’s warehouse can store it without any charge till December 15,” principal secretary (agriculture) Rajesh Rajora said.
On November 12, the Madhya Pradesh government had directed the cooperative banks and societies to accept Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes against repayment of loan by the farmers in their loan accounts. However, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has shot down the move.
117.16 lakh hectares land approximately is sowed for winter crop in MP
35.23 lakh hectare has been sown so far
28.6% is the contribution of agriculture to state GDP.