The move to promote digital payment, electricity crunch and ban on regulated sale of poppy husk are some of the reasons that led to the farmers’ stir in Madhya Pradesh, a top government official said today. The state has been on the boil ever since the farmers launched an agitation last week seeking loan waiver and better crop prices. “The Centre and the state government have forbidden the farmers to sell poppy husk since the last two years in Mandsaur and Neemuch districts and this has rendered hundreds of farmers, mostly members of the strong Patidar community, jobless,” the official from western Madhya Pradesh told PTI. According to him, the government used to regulate the sale and farming of poppy husk in the past, but now it was destroying the contraband, which was earlier permitted to be used for medicinal purposes.
The situation has been volatile in Mandsaur and Neemuch for the last couple of days. Five farmers were killed in police firing at Mandsaur on Tuesday, while six others were injured. The official claimed all the deceased farmers belonged to the Patidar community. “Besides, the state government’s move to promote digital payment in place of cash for procuring produce from farmers in the mandis (markets) aggravated the woes of the cultivators,” he said. The farmers have run out of cash due to digital payment mode, which is still at a nascent stage in Madhya Pradesh, he said. “The cost of farm produce has also gone up considerably due to two reasons — shortage of electricity to farmers and black marketing of manure,” the official said.
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According to him, farmers were using diesel-run water pumps for irrigation due to lack of power. “The electricity distribution company in the region has been snapping power supply to farmers if they fail to pay the monthly bills instantly,” he said. Besides, the farmers are forced to buy manure from the black market at a huge price due to rampant corruption in the state. This has increased the cost of production of agriculture produce, the official alleged. Widespread violence, including several incidents of arson, have been reported from western Madhya Pradesh, especially in Mandsaur and Dewas districts, in the week-long agitation in the state.
Rattled by the violence, the Madhya Pradesh government has announced a crop loan settlement scheme, which proposes waiving of interests of the cultivators who have defaulted on repayment of their loans. “It is the farmers’ anger which has spilled onto the roads against Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan due to widespread corruption in the farm sector,” Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangh national president Shivkumar Sharma told PTI. “There is no electricity in rural areas of MP, so the farmers are using diesel-driven water pumps to irrigate their land. Secondly, they are forced to buy fertilisers from black market,” he said.
“I had been saying that massive corruption is plaguing the farm sector under Chouhan since long. Now my stand is vindicated,” he said. “Due to these factors, the cost of production of farm produce has skyrocketed. For getting satisfactory price for their produce, the farmers are protesting,” said Sharma, who had led a farmers’ agitation in December 2010. However, he disagreed that the ban of poppy husk business had ignited the farmers’ stir. If contraband is the reason, why are the farmers protesting in other parts of the state, he argued. BJP MP from Mandsaur, Sudhir Gupta, blamed the Congress for the farmers’ agitation.
“Congress is behind the violence during the farmers’ stir,” he alleged. The state government has said that it was ready for an open dialogue with the protesting farmers. “The stir has inflicted immense financial loss to my constituency,” Gupta said.