By Anwarul Hoda:
Sikandarpur Machua, a village located four kilometres away from the Harduaganj district of Uttar Pradesh was visited by the team of Being Civilized, an organisation formed by a group of students from Aligarh Muslim University to work on issues which have socio-political importance.
Famous for a historical bridge over the upper Ganga channel which was built by Lord Dalhousie, the village sustains around 1200 people. According to the government records, a majority of them are directly dependent on agriculture. The average land holding of a family is around 15 bigha, in which crops, mainly maize, peas and pulses are grown. According to Vimlesh, a resident of the village, they have stopped producing sugarcane, which was a major source of income for them, due to the menace of wild pigs. The destruction they caused to the sugarcane crops led to great losses for the farmers. There isn’t any security provided against the wild pigs by the government, although some of the villagers hunt them down at times.
“Kisaan to pagal hai (farmers are mad),” says Vimlesh. “The daily schedule of a farmer includes getting up at 3 a.m. in the morning and the work continues till, at least, 5 p.m. in the evening, excluding the extra work they have to do at odd hours due to any slight change in the climate. They are forced to work harder in case of a storm or heavy rain. On the other hand, the city people have fixed work hours. Yet, it’s totally ironic that the farmers still suffer from uncertainty when it comes to their income at the end of the day,” she told us.
The only school in the village is a government school which has classes up to the fifth standard. For further education, the students have to take admission in schools outside the village, either in Harduaganj or Aligarh. In that case, they face the problem of transportation, especially for girls.
Electricity is another major problem in this village. Only four to five hours of electricity is available for the villagers per day.
Manvir Singh, another farmer who owns 90 bighas of agricultural land, informed us that the farmers have to increase the quantity of the fertilisers by two kilograms per bigha every year, otherwise the land wouldn’t remain fertile enough to produce even half of the previous year’s production. The other major problem that he stated regarding the fertilisers is that their cost keeps increasing every year; their poor availability at the moment was another headache for the farmers, he added.
He also highlighted the problem they faced with the purchase of the seeds. The cost of these seeds is twice as much as their produce, he said. He said they had to buy seeds of the wheat crop at a cost of around Rs. 2500 to 2700 per quintal but the crop hardly sold at Rs. 1400 to 1500 per quintal at the mandi and if they sold locally, they were forced to accept prices that were even lower. The high cost of labour also added an extra burden to the total cost of production, said Singh.
Boni Sharma, another farmer in the village, spoke about the problems they faced at the mandi when they went to sell their produce. He said that most of the time their produce was rejected by the brokers due to whimsical and petty reasons. Even if the produce was sold, they weren’t paid for at least a month, he claimed.
“In the name of government support, when the crops are destroyed by weather or by any other reason, we only receive Rs. 100-200 at the most, while the promised amount is mostly gobbled up by the dalal (middlemen), which instead of being any help mocks the hard work we do,” said a young farmer.
An old farmer who left farming years ago said that farmers here were hardly aware of the government policies like Fasal Bima (Crop Insurance scheme) or Jan Dhan Yojna (Bank Accounts scheme for financial inclusion). “Most of the farmers aren’t interested in these policies of the government due to the complicated paperwork involved and unsupportive behaviour of the government officials. The corruption involved is another major cause for the farmers not being interested in these policies. Farmers these days are in a vulnerable position,” he added.
There is a need for public discussion and debates on issues pertaining to agrarian issues and rural India at large. The mainstream Indian media has a largely urban bias and it seems to require a collective suicide of farmers for some news to be made. India as a nation cannot expect to attain holistic development and progress, if such a huge multitude of its population continues to remain in stark deprivation.