Jaipur: Harji Ram Ghatala stares at the skies with concern. It’s the cusp of the monsoon season and there have been some encouraging showers. The farmer from Dudu in Jaipur district, who grows bajra, moong and mustard, has a greater concern. Even if the rains are normal, he may end up making a loss on his crop next season.
To understand why a normal monsoon — considered one of the most important factors in Indian agriculture — is still not enough to bring relief to farmers, here are some numbers. Rajasthan’s peasants made a loss of Rs 4,500 crore last agricultural season on just four crops: mustard, moong, peanuts and bajra.
Rs 45,63,84,61,500 is the exact number.
To put things in perspective, that’s about half of Karnataka’s farm debt waiver announced on Wednesday, and nearly a sixth of the total agricultural loans of Rajasthan, which stand at Rs 28,238 crore.
That’s just the loss on four of the most widely produced crops in Rajasthan, compiled by the Kisan Mahapanchayat, a farmers’ rights organization.
Rajasthan produces about 48% of India’s mustard. This rabi crop is sown in September and harvested in February. Farmers in the state grew 37 lakh tonne of the oilseed last season after the government announced a minimum support price of Rs 3,700 per quintal.
The MSP acts as an assurance price for farmers and signals the government’s intent to purchase the produce, regardless of prevailing market price. Ironically, it remains a promise on paper as the government buys only a small fraction of produce at MSP.
Ghatala has been unable to sell any of his mustard at the government sanctioned rate this year. “When my crop was ready, the government wasn’t,” the farmer said. “I had to sell at Rs 3,100 per quintal, which doesn’t even cover my costs,” he added.
In short, the government, even after announcing the MSP, fails to procure the produce, or even ensure that its stated price, meant to fetch the farmer a fair value, is enforced, according to Ram Pal Jat, President of the Kisan Mahapanchayat.
Peasants are thus forced to sell to private traders who purchase at market prices, which are below the cost of production.
Take moong. Rajasthan produces nearly 40% of the country’s output. But Rajasthan’s farmers made a collective loss of Rs 1,200 crore on the pulse.
Nandlal Meena doesn’t need economics and statistics to tote up his losses. The farmer was forced to sell his moong crop at a loss of nearly Rs 16,000 per tonne to a private trader at a Mandi near his village.
It’s the same story with peanuts and Bajra, both of which the state produces in substantial quantities.
Ten lakh tons of peanuts were produced in the state and the government declared an MSP of Rs 4,120 per quintal. The prevailing market price is between Rs 3,200 and Rs 3,600, leading to a loss of Rs 500 to 900 per quintal. The cumulative loss for peasants was nearly Rs 700 crore.
This figure represents the difference between what the farmers got and what they should have got.
Bajra, which is used for human consumption and as animal feed, was similarly unremunerative. Rajasthan’s farmers incurred a loss of Rs 830 crore on the coarse cereal.
Farmers are saying there has been an across the board deflation in crop prices this year, leading to unrest among the peasantry.
Farmers in Maharashtra have responded by pouring milk on the streets and agitating farmers in Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh were shot dead, allegedly by the police.
Peasant meetings are springing up across Rajasthan as farmers agitate on a host of issues: from unremunerative prices and debt to electricity shortage and the acquisition of fertile farmland for industry and infrastructure.
How these protests will unfold is something only time will tell.