This Gudi Padwa May Have Little in Store for Farmers as Lockdown Hits Rabi Harvest Season
Rashtriya Kisan Majdur Sangh's national head, Shiv Kumar Kakkaji, wrote to the PMO immediately late on Tuesday stating that he lockdown will severely impact Rabi crops and cause huge losses to farmers.
Image for representation.
New Delhi: On the first day of the national lockdown, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter to extend greetings of Gudi Padwa, a festival celebrated in the western parts of India, signifying arrival of spring and the reaping of Rabi crops. However, for farmers, the occasion may not be as happy this year.
Rashtriya Kisan Majdur Sangh's national head, Shiv Kumar Kakkaji, wrote to the Prime Minister's Office immediately after the announcement late on Tuesday stating that the lockdown will severely impact Rabi crops and will cause huge losses to farmers.
"The farmers' entire year's hard work will go to waste. Wheat, mustard and gram crops are ripe now and need to be harvested. During the 21-day lockdown period, farmers will not be allowed to step out of their houses and therefore, harvest and storage will not be possible. This will negatively impact the food supply chain in a country that is primarily agrarian," he wrote.
Rabi crops that include wheat, barley, oats, gram (pulses), linseed, and mustard among others are sown in winter and harvested during the first week of April in most parts of India.
To understand the impact of the pandemic on markets, we may consider this: the per quintal price of gram in Maharashtra's Latur has dipped to Rs 3,650, whereas the minimum support price (MSP) for the crop is Rs 4,875. Similarly in Rajasthan's Alwar, the market price of mustard currently stands at Rs 3,600 per quintal, almost Rs 1,000 less than its MSP.
Devappa Anna Shetti, also known as Raju Shetti, former member of Parliament from Maharashtra and a farmer leader, explained the difficulties peasants in the state are facing.
"Not just the harvest of Rabi crops, transport of vegetables to markets for sale has also stopped. These vegetables are then transported to various states. Without that, mandis in the country will have serious shortage of supply. Farmers will get no money. The lockdown will impact the famers not just for this season, but will financially dent their capacity to buy for the next year as well," he said.
Meanwhile, farmers in Punjab are throwing their produce on the roads as a sign of protest against the lockdown. Worried that they may not be able to take their perishable produce to the market for sale and would have to incur heavy losses, they have demanded relaxation of curfew for a few hours in the morning so that they could sell their produce and also tend to their crop in the fields.
Back in Maharashtra, the downsides of the lockdown is impacting agricultural labourers too.
"After 21 days, half the crops will be eaten by animals and will anyway be too late to get anything worthwhile out of them. Gudi Padwa is the time when we also pay the farm labourers who work for the year on our fields. If we don't get money, how do we pay them? They are going to be in a worse state than us," said Kalidas Aapet, a farmer in Maharashtra.
However, the Central authorities have assured that there will be no shortage of food supply.
On Wednesday, Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant said, "There is no shortage of food supplies in the country. Intra-state transportation of supplies will be ensured by states. Initially, there was lack of clarity. But guidelines are very clear on e-commerce and kirana stores. We will make sure the supply chain is not broken. Warehouses and cold storages will be allowed to function."
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