BENGALURU: Small farmer Nagaraju from Raichur, who cultivates paddy, is waiting for the economy to pick up before purchasing seeds for his next crop. While the price of a 75-kg sack of rice fell from Rs 1,300 to Rs 1,040 at the beginning of the lockdown, he told The New Indian Express that he is still looking for markets to sell his produce. He has not applied for the government aid scheme yet, but is hoping to work on neighbouring farms for wages again to sustain his family.
Like Nagaraju, lakhs of farmers in Karnataka do not have money to cultivate the Kharif crop and are staring at a bleak future. The Centre for Sustainable Employment, Azim Premji University, in its recent Livelihoods Survey, has recorded that 85 per cent of rural farmers and 95 per cent of urban farmers across 12 states were unable to sell their produce at full prices during the lockdown. Several sold their produce at less than half the price, while many were forced to let their crops rot.
About 60 per cent of agricultural casual wage workers in Karnataka alone have lost employment. Researchers have found that government initiatives like the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana or the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), which would have alleviated the farmers from the crisis, did not reach a majority of them.
Apart from the reach of the schemes being poor, the researchers observed that there were insufficient jobs, many did not possess job cards and several did not even have bank accounts, nor did they apply for direct benefit transfer from the government.
Women farmers, cultivators in Hyderabad-Karnataka and Mumbai-Karnataka regions, have faced the worst situation this year due to the two-month lockdown, including no access to markets for the crops they grew, said Muthuraju, one of the administrators of Jan Shakti Andolan. Farmers depended on rations from the government, apart from their own produce to stave off starvation, he pointed out. Due to a fall in prices, where silk farmers got only between Rs 150 and Rs 350 for a kg of cocoons around Mandya and Bengaluru, several selling the worms to cultivators were out of jobs as the latter were hesitant to buy, said a sericulture expert.
50% of small farmers not aware of schemes
While 90 per cent of the farmers got sustenance money from PM Kisan Yojana in Karnataka, Muthuraju said more than 50 per cent of small farmers were not aware of other schemes such as Jan Dhan Yojana nor did they get government help to sell through Horticultural Producers Co-operative Marketing and Processing Society (HOPCOMS) as promised.
Scene On The Ground Karnataka
- 50% of farmers reported losing employment (not working on any day during the lockdown)
- 67% of households with farming as main source of income reported consuming less food than before
- 38% farming households reported not having enough money for even a week’s worth of essentials
- 53% of farming households reported taking loans
*More than half of farming households did not receive any form of cash transfer.