Saturday, December 15, 2018
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ONION RINGS THE ALARM BELL

What makes the Indian farmer angry?

Farmers across the country are in a state of distress as they are unable to get remunerative prices for their crops. Policymakers need to prepare region-specific comprehensive action plan and act on it in a time-bound manner09 Dec 2018 | 12:40 AM[ + read story ]

Shiv Kumar in Mumbai

A small farmer in Maharashtra, who owns merely two acres, has managed to shake up the government by simply sending the meagre proceeds from the sale of his onion crop to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund. In late November, Sanjay Sathe, 45, took his onion crop weighing 750 kg on a tractor trailer to the agricultural sub-market at Niphad taluka near Nashik. He was offered merely Rs 1 per kg. After some haggling, he got  Rs 1,064 for the entire lot. “I had spent Rs 75,000 to cultivate the crop,” Sathe said.

Frustrated at the huge loss he suffered, the farmer sent the amount to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund by Money Order. After Sathe’s story made it to the headlines, the shaken government first sent officials to question him about his political motives. “Government officials wanted to know if I was member of any political party. I told them I only wanted to highlight the problems faced by the farmers who were not getting a fair price for their crops,” Sathe added.

Incidentally, Sathe is a minor celebrity in Maharashtra’s Niphad taluka. The progressive farmer, who has appeared on radio shows as well, was even selected to meet former US President Barack Obama when he visited India eight years back. Sathe first hit headlines 10 years back when he was among the first ones to adopt the mobile phone technology to check for prices and weather patterns to plan his planting and harvesting. “I started making use of the mobile phone on government helpline for information about the weather and prices of crops in the agriculture market,” Sathe said in an earlier interview to a local newspaper.

Government officials looking for poster boys to showcase the modern farmer zeroed in on Sathe and got him on programmes on agriculture on the state-owned All-India Radio. He was then selected to take part in an event to meet Obama in Mumbai. A few words exchanged with the US President with the help of a translator got the farmer his 15 minutes of fame.

Shortly after Sathe’s episode, farmers in Nashik protested against low prices for onions by dumping the produce on the roads and running their vehicles over it. Later, the opposition Congress and the NCP organised farmers’ protests in many parts of Maharashtra.

On Thursday, the state government said it was considering some solutions to the problem. “The government is giving a transport subsidy of  Rs 30,000 or 50 per cent transport cost, whichever was lower for onions transported between 750 and 1,000 km,” Minister of State for Agricultural Marketing, Sadabhau Khot, told reporters here. He added that the Maharashtra Government was encouraging farmers to take their crops to other states as well. Khot further added that the government had requested the Centre to increase export subsidy for onions from 5 per cent to 10 per cent.

What makes the Indian farmer angry?Wronged: Last week, farmers from all over the country marched to New Delhi to demand remunerative prices for their produce and freedom from debt. photos: Mukesh Aggarwal and Agencies
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