Sarjee Kamble (70), a small farmer from Solapur’s Khole village, is not too excited about the much-applauded loan waiver recently announced by the state government.
Owner of five-acre land in Madha taluka, Kamble cultivates maize, jowar and onions. He said his primary concern is to fetch good rates for his produce. “Will my onions fetch a decent price, this year at least?,” he asked.
Kamble is just one among hundreds of distressed farmer warkaris (pilgrims), who are leaving the city for Pandharpur on Tuesday, as part of the annual Sant Tukaram and Sant Dnyaneshwar’s palkhi procession.
“This is for the first time, in over a decade, that I have not been able to make any money from my produce. I have been investing at least four times more than what I earn. How will I feed my family?” he asked.
Owner of 10 cows and 14 sheep, Kamble is now planning to focus on milking these milch animals to support his family.
Distress among warkaris was evident as many pledged to consume minimum food and water till they reach Kolhapur on Ashadhi Ekadashi.
Ramabai is a marginal farmer from Bhigwan whose livelihood depends on cultivation of onions and lentils. “I had borrowed some money but my produce has not been appreciable. I have barely been able to pay back the sum. I am worried that the bank will soon take action,” said Ramabai, who has come on her maiden wari this year.
Pointing out that she was aware of the loan waiver proceedings, she raised doubts on its benefits for small and marginal farmers. “Several promises have been in the past, but how many of the farmers have actually been asked to not repay their loan?” asked Ramabai.
Nagnath Shirsat (65) said he works for around ten days in a month, as farming is losing sheen due to unpredictable climate conditions. “I am not skilled to do any other work. Given my age, I don’t know for how many years I can work,” said Shirsat, who hails from Pimplegaon.
Having no permanent accommodation, Shirsat, along with his five-member family, simply migrates from one place to another in search of odd-farming jobs. “When there is work, I earn about Rs 200. I can barely make ends meet,” he added.