A very famous saying goes like uttam kheti, madhyam vyapar, kanishtha naukri which means farming is supreme, trade is medial and the most lowly is job or service. But the government’s complete lack of focus on the farmer’s income security over the past decades has resulted in a devastating reversal of the proverb. According to the 1991 census there were 110 million people for whom farming was the main occupation which came down to 103 million in 2001 and in the next ten years it was just 95.8 million. This number is continually reducing.
Panjab Mahadevrao Kakad hails from Murumbi, a small place in the Washim district of Maharashtra, infamous for farmer suicides. He comes to the Karanja Lad APMC (Agricultural Produce Market Committee) to sell his produce. The APMC is known to be a hundred years old, established in the year 1886. Kakad speaks about how it is to be a farmer in India and the challenges that he and other farmers face in the APMC.
A farmer since the past 18 years, Mahadevrao Kakad had six acres of land which is now reduced to two acres. “I am going to leave agriculture to join as a watchman in any company in Mumbai or Pune. I have spent all my life farming. Day in and day out we have to be in the farms and what do we get? Nothing!” he says.
Kakad says, “I tell my son to study well, to work really hard so that he gets a good and secures a job. I won’t let my child be a farmer. To put my child into agriculture is to feed him poison with my own hands. How can I do that?”
He suddenly took my pen and asked, “Look at this pen. This small pen too came into the market with its price including all its making cost. Have you seen any business where all that you get is loss and no profit? But farming is the only profession where we incur losses without any profit ever.”
He furiously said, “I say the farmers who commit suicide should not die alone; instead, they should kill a minister along with them. The farmer is already dying, let him take a Member of Parliament or a Member of Legislative Assembly along with him.”
Kakad said that along with other farmers he has tried to organize a strike and close the market but there is no one to hear their voices. “The police threatened us, they removed us from our place. We cannot stand in front of them since we farmers don’t have any power,” he says.
He said that there are no pressure groups and they couldn’t form one because to unite and gather at a place is not possible due to their low financial status.
Mahadevrao said that the NAFED (National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd.) centres pay fixed price for their produces. The weighing machines of the government cannot measure more than 250 quintals a day. There isn’t enough space to keep the produces brought by the farmers. The farmers have to wait for a month to get their produce weighed and yet another month for the payment of that produce.
“What will I pay the people, the labourers working? How will I pay for the transport?” asks Mahadevrao. “This is the reason why I sold two quintals loose. I have received a receipt for March 7. On the 7th, they will measure my goods and then after one month they will make the payment,” he said.
He said that the farmers are ready to pay all the storage charges but at least their produce should be measured early and the payment should be done on time. “They have just one scale to measure the produce brought by farmers. Let them set up 10 such scales. There is no space here to keep my outputs. I have taken away my produces three times by now and all the three times I had to pay the fees,” he says.
“Have you seen a government which has pushed its farmers 10 years back? Last year the prices of soyabean was ₹3,600 per quintal and this year it is ₹2,400. The retailers who buy said that they don’t have any cash, they have cheques instead and if we want cash then we had to sell it for ₹1,500. Can you imagine that? We have sold our soyabean for as low as ₹1,500,” says Mahadevrao when asked on how demonetization has affected him. “A farmer does not have the capacity to wait for one month behind a cheque,” he adds.
Mahadevrao says that the government has done nothing for the farmers. Instead, the Fadnavis government has granted them with the funds for a farm fence. He says that the farmers don’t need farm fences since there is already little land available with them and with these fences the land available reduces further.
The one who feeds us stays hungry himself, the one who strengthens this economy with his sweat and blood suffers bitterly. Panjab Mahadevrao Kakad slaps this stark reality on the face of the government and the people.