Farm Loan Waiver: Garlic Glut Brings Death and Distress to Kota Belt
Cross the courtyard, there is garlic in two rooms. And there’s more. Two weeks ago, Meena had gone to the field at 5 a.m. telling his wife that he would be back soon. He was found a few hours later lathering out of his mouth. He had consumed poison on the ground. Like Meena, five farmers have committed suicide since April this year in the Hadoti region of Rajasthan. It is an abundance problem that they face.
Under huge debts, farmers in the area had invested in garlic seedlings this year to find a glut in the market with a bumper harvest. “When the farmer sowed it, garlic was selling for Rs 70 per kg, but when he started harvesting the crop in March, prices fell to Rs 3-4 per kg. Bringing it to the mandi would mean suffering a loss, ”explains Aniruddh, Meena’s brother.
Meena had a loan of Rs 18 lakh on the Kisan credit card, Rs 1.5 lakh from cooperative banks and Rs 4 lakh from other banks. He believed that garlic, which is a water-hungry crop but sells better than mustard, chana dal or wheat, would help him pay off his debt. “He owned 16-17 bighas of land. He took 53 bighas in rent by paying Rs 6 lakh per year. He sowed garlic on 20 bighas. He could not bear the shock when the prices collapsed, ”Aniruddh said. In the village of around 900 people, the 153 families have an average debt of Rs 9 lakh.
The problem with harvesting is storage. As the heat increases, garlic loses moisture and shrinks and deteriorates in 4 to 5 months. Garlic was sown on about 1.09 lakh hectares in the Hadoti region covering four districts of Kota, Bundi, Baran and Jhalawar. The yield is 70 quintals lakh. With farmer protests across the region and assembly elections in five months, the BJP government stepped in to announce that it would start buying from mandis. He has set a target of 15 quintals of a lakh but has so far only bought 2 quintals of a lakh at Rs 32.57 per kg.
Among the mandis, the process of purchasing farmers’ products was very slow. Rohit Kumar, a farmer from the Bachhihera area in Kota, said: “The government has launched an online registration system to purchase products from farmers. Each farmer receives a token number and then when it comes his turn to sell, he is informed on his mobile phone. But the buying pace is very slow. Every day they buy from a maximum of 40 people.
In Kota, the government started registration number from 20029000 and has so far reached token number 20030853 – meaning 1,853 farmers’ products have been acquired in Kota from Seth Bhamashah Krishi Upaj Mandi. From registration until 20042000, there are at least 11,000 farmers on hold.
Farmers are seething. In Bhamashah mandi, there are daily fights and disputes over the weight and whether the product does not meet the parameters set by the government. Union Secretary General Hadoti Kisan Dashrath Kumar told ET: “Government intervention in the market usually has a self-correcting effect on prices. But since the pace of buying is so slow, it hardly has any impact. The pace is so slow that at this rate it would take the government almost a year to buy the current products from the farmers. The last registered farmer in Kota has a 270-day wait ahead.
Farmers are now worried that as the garlic loses moisture, it cannot even be purchased from the mandis. “There is a defined parameter – 25 mm – set by the government. Garlic would shrink and would not be eligible for purchase, ”Aniruddh said. The villagers have not heard of the waiver of the agricultural loan from the BJP government. “We have only read so far. We don’t know if we qualify, ”said Dulichand from Jhopadiya village near Kota, adding,“ Even if we qualify, it’s only 50,000 rupees. It’s like adding a small pot of water to an ocean.