Around 300 farmers from four districts of Chhattisgarh gave away 1,000 kg of their vegetable produce for free in a bid to draw the state government’s attention to the dramatic drop in prices. The crowd surged as the vegetables were distributed outside Raipur’s indoor stadium Monday. The road had to be cordoned off by police.
As the crowd picked up tomatoes, then capsicum, and then green bananas, peals of laughter were heard. “We can’t believe we are getting 5 kg vegetables for free,” said Sandhya Mandal, standing in the queue. The farmers laughed too, but there was irony in their laughter. “The situation is so bad that we are giving our produce for free. We are in crisis,” one farmer said.
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Dharmesh Kumar Tank, a farmer from Rajnandgaon district and member of Chhattisgarh Yuva Pragatishil Kisan Sangh, said, “This year, the price a farmer is getting for his produce is abysmally low. For vegetables it is between Rs 25 and 40 a crate, which contains 27-28 kg of produce. The price does not even cover the farmer’s transport costs.”
Several farmers told The Indian Express that there were several reasons for the dip in prices, but the “irony” was that they were being punished “for a good season”. “After two years of bad rainfall, this year was excellent, and outputs were high. That is one of the reasons prices dropped. Middlemen in mandis drive up prices for consumers and eat into the margins of farmers,” one farmer said. “A lot of our produce, especially tomatoes, used to go to neighbouring countries like Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan. Because of issues now, that has stopped,” added Rohan Chawda, a farmer from Raipur and also from the Kisan Sangh.
Several jokes were heard during the protest, many about demonetisation. “Arre bhai, line me lagiye. Pachas din mein itna toh sikha hoga,” they said. The state government said it was sensitive to the needs of farmers, adding that 100 cold storage units would be activated.
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