Thieves target ‘pricey’ onions in Madhya Pradesh farms
Farmers in several onion-growing areas of Madhya Pradesh have started keeping a round-the-clock watch on their fields after more than a dozen cases of theft of the pricey bulb was reported in the last few weeks, government officials said.
The worst-hit, however, is the state’s onion belt of Mandsaur, where six people had died in a clash between farmers, demanding better price for their produce, and the police in 2016.
Police have said there have been at least half a dozen incidents of theft of onions from agriculture fields mainly in the Malwa region known for farming of the vegetable. Other districts from where thefts have been reported are Dewas and Khandwa.
Madhya Pradesh after Maharashtra supplies the maximum amount of onion to the country. Its contribution of onion supply is about 16%, according to the ministry of agriculture and farmers’ welfare.
A smaller crop due to untimely rains has led to a sharp spike in onion prices, which have more than doubled at Rs 100 a kg around the country.
An assessment by the Centre has said that a sluggish start to the June-September monsoon and then heavy rains followed by flooding in the August-September in key onion-growing states, such as Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka, is estimated to have damaged a third of the summer onion crop. Prices are expected to stabilise once new harvests start arriving in markets next month.
The latest incident of theft took place in Mandsaur.
Thieves struck the agriculture fields of Jagdish Patidar and Dashrath Patidar, residents of Kachnara village under Narayangarh police station, on Tuesday night, dug the farms and stole onion worth about Rs 60,000.
“I had thought that given the high price of onion I will earn good money this time and use the money for installing a tube-well but my dream is shattered,” Jagdish Patidar, who lodged a report with the police on Wednesday, said.
Dashrath Patidar said, “We can remain awake the whole night but the problem is we can’t spend it in the agriculture fields given the winter season and chilly winds. When we returned home around after midnight the thieves targeted our fields. But after the theft, several farmers and I are sleeping in huts near the fields now.”
Jitendra Dhangar’s farm in Richhabachcha village was similarly targeted by thieves about a fortnight ago.
“The thieves dug up the field and decamped with about 6.5 quintals of onion worth Rs 30,000,” he said.
In Dewas, another district in the Malwa region, at least two such thefts committed in a short span of time in the past fortnight has been reported to the police.
“The reports coming from the rural areas are just a tip of ice-berg. Scores of such thefts have taken place but police have not lodged reports in connection with the theft. Police should ensure that such thefts don’t take place,” the state president of the Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan, Rahul Raj, said.
The police chiefs of Mandsaur and Neemuch districts said they taking several steps to stop the crime and nab those behind the thefts.
“A thief is a thief for us but given the theft of onion from fields we are trying to maintain a good coordination between villagers and police personnel to get information about any person who is outsider or his movement is suspicious,” Manoj Kumar Singh, the superintendent of police of Mandsaur, where several such incidents have been reported, said.
“Given the thefts of onion in the neighbouring district of Mandsaur, we have alerted Dial 100, gram raksha samiti and police beat in charge to check such thefts,” Neemuch’s superintendent of police, Rakesh Kumar, said.
On November 28, some unidentified men had looted 40 tonnes of onions from a truck in Shivpuri district of Madhya Pradesh. The truck was on its way to Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh from Nasik in Maharashtra.
Similarly, 12 bags of onions were stolen from a godown in Gwalior on Tuesday. Thieves struck a vegetable market at Niwadganj in Jabalpur in the second week of December and took away about 650 kg onion worth Rs 75,000, according to police.
Gwalior Police on Tuesday arrested an alleged onion thief, who was selling the bulb at throwaway prices at a local market.
Police said when questioned he confessed that he had stolen the onions from a silo.