The decline in the yield of wheat due to unfavourable weather conditions and problems during the procurement season have led the farmers, who hire land on much higher annual contracts, to think about uncertainties in future and fix the rates of contracts themselves.
This is the first time that many such affected farmers have passed resolutions fixing the rates of contracts. In some villages, even panchayats have decided to safeguard their interests.
Enthused by basmati and falling into the bait of big landlords, who allegedly exploit them out of their compulsions, many farmers had struck deals at about Rs 55,000 per acre in November last while the average returns from both wheat and paddy are about Rs 70,000 per acre.
Apart from higher contract rates, they have to spend about Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000 on inputs, which leaves little profit for them in the end. Only small farmers hire lands on annual contracts to run their households.
Besides, about Rs 6,000 loss from the decline of four quintal yield of wheat per acre, as the farmers claim, on an average, has also sent a warning signal to the farming community.
"In our villages, the farmers, who hire lands on annual contracts from those who do not do agriculture on their own, held a meeting and fixed rates of annual contracts. In Sarawan and Niamiwala villages, the farmers have fixed rates for fertile lands with power tubewells at Rs 48,000 per acre, for those with tubewells run by diesel engines at Rs 43,000 and lands irrigated only by canal water at Rs 40,000. Most farmers have gone with the decision as they were left with little profit at the earlier rate, which had crossed even Rs 55,000 per acre," said Jagseer Singh from Niamiwala and Sukhmander Singh from Sarawan.
Some village panchayats have also come in support of the contractual farmers. In Sirsari, the panchayat has passed a resolution against the higher rates and decided that there would be no increase in the last year's rates. It has warned to impose a fine of Rs 1 lakh on those who violate the resolution passed by it.
Similarly, the panchayat in Chambeli village has also fixed rates of the contracts from Rs 35,000 to Rs 45,000 and resolved to impose a fine of Rs 50,000 on those who violate the resolution of the panchayat.
In Muktsar also, the farmers are concerned about the higher rates and joined hands to fix contract rates. "Last year,we had leased our land on an annual contract of Rs 47,500, but this year, we were offered only Rs 43,000. So, we have decided to do agriculture ourselves this year. The increase in inputs, as labour, diesel and harassment of buying fertiliser, selling the produce had of course hit the farmers who do agriculture on annual contracts," said Amritpal Singh Brar, a farmer from Fattan Wala village of Muktsar.
"The farmers have suffered losses from the wheat crop due to decline in yield. Many big farmers are even not finding any takers on lower rates too. Some farmers have given even up advance payments. Now, farmers are also unable to decide which crop and variety to sow," said Beant Singh, chief agriculture officer, Muktsar.