NASHIK: Distressed by the crash in prices of onions, a farmer in Nashik district of Maharashtra lit a bonfire of the crop in protest against the government's policies and to highlight the plight of growers.
The protest was held on the day of the Holika festival which is marked by the burning of bonfires in Maharashtra.
Onion cultivators are battling a crisis as the prices of the kitchen staple have taken a hit at the Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) in Lasalgaon, the largest wholesale onion market in Asia, in Nashik.
The price per kilogram of onion came down to Rs 2 to Rs 4, which angered the growers, who had stopped the auction at the APMC last week for a day.
Krishna Dongre, a farmer from Mathulthan village in Yeola taluka who burnt the onion crop cultivated on one-and-half acres of land, had printed an invitation card announcing the agitation which had gone viral on social media.
"The Union and state governments have left the farmers to their fate. In their power struggle, they do not pay attention to whether the farmer survives or dies. This is a black day not only for Maharashtra but also for the nation as a farmer has been forced to light the bonfire of onions," he said and blamed the policies of the government.
Farmers from nearby villages were present at the protest.
The drop in onion prices has angered farmers in Nashik district as well as in the rest of the state and they are staging agitations.
Maharashtra Rajya Kanda Utpadak Sanghatana (MRKUS) had stopped the auction of onions at Lasalgaon APMC on February 27.
Similar agitations were staged in Chandwad and other parts of the district and across the state in the last week.
On Sunday, angry farmers gheraoed Union Minister Bharati Pawar at Shirasgaon in Niphad taluka of Nashik district. They questioned why the onion crop is not getting a good price when the Centre says it has increased the export of onions.
A farmer's association leader had demanded the government to immediately declare a Rs 1,500 per quintal grant for onions during the ongoing Budget session and purchase the produce, being currently sold at Rs 3,4, 5 per kg, for Rs 15 to Rs 20 per kg.
In February, a farmer from Solapur district suffered a rude shock when he got to know that he earned a profit of merely Rs 2.49 against the sale of his 512 kg onions to a trader in the district.
The farmer had said his onion yield fetched a price of Re 1 per kg at the Solapur market yard and after all the deductions he received this paltry sum as his net profit.
The price of onions has plunged to `2 per kg in the market, sparking massive resentment among the farmers. Scores of them are burning their crops, dumping the onions in the market for free and throwing it on roads. “If this issue is not sorted, then the farmers’ anger may spiral out of control,” said Sanjay Patil, a farmer.
Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis recently told the legislature that the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India had purchased 18,743 quintals of onions from the market.
Farmers courier onions to PM in protest
A group of farmers from Ahmednagar in Maharashtra have sent onions by post to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking relief from dropping prices and lifting of the ban on export of the crop. An onion consignment has been parcelled to the prime minister, farmers belonging to Shetkari Sanghatana and Shetkari Vikas Mandal said on Monday, adding that they demand the ban must be lifted.
(With inputs from PTI)