Haryana farmers have been selling their potatoes for as low as 20 paisa per kg in the grain market of Pipli in Kurukshetra district this year. And if market labour charges are deducted, their net earning is just 9 paisa per kg. This is not just an allegation by farmers but a fact verified by a Market Committee of the Haryana government. Documents accessed by The Indian Express show that Sukhpal Singh, a resident of village Mangoli (Kurukshetra), sold 43.20 quintal potatoes for Rs 900 at grain market at Pipli on May 25.
“He paid Rs 520 as labour charges in the grain market for cleaning and unloading of the potatoes. The arthiya (commission agent) paid him just Rs 380, which means he earned just 9 paisa per kg,” mentioned the document. The commission agent in this case, Ram Kumar Saini, told The Indian Express there could be many cases like of Sukhpal. “Sukhpal’s potatoes were not good in quality. But even the good potatoes were purchased at the rate of Rs 1.5 per kg. This time, there was no demand of potatoes from Bihar. Probably, they (Bihar farmers) had cultivated enough potatoes this year,” said Saini.
A farmer from village Mamumajra in Kurukshetra, Jasbir Singh, said, “I also sold my potatoes for Rs 20 paisa per kg. There was no buyer in the market. In fact, it was an outcome of notebandi. The traders had no money. But ultimately the farmers are being forced to bear the brunt of notebandi.” “I had cultivated potatoes in 40 acres of land. We were forced to sell even the early variety potatoes at the rate of Rs 1.5 per kg in December and January. I agree potato produce this time was a little high in comparison to the previous year. But where is the government which keeps saying it will facilitate export of potatoes and other products.Why was there no arrangement to export potatoes to Pakistan, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka?” questioned Jasbir Singh.
Another farmer from the same village, Jogender Singh, said, “The potatoes are bought at throwaway prices from farmers. We fail to understand how the same potatoes are sold by rehriwalas to the people in urban areas at the rate of Rs 15 per kg.” The cultivation of potatoes proved a business of huge loss this year for farmers as the average production cost of potatoes was Rs 7 per kg, he said. Bhartiya Kisan Union’s Haryana unit president Gurnam Singh Chaduni said, “The farmers blocked national highways on Friday to demand profitable prices of their crops. Now, we will discuss the next strategy on June 19.”
Former Haryana CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who along with other Congress MLAs met Haryana Governor to seek his intervention to solve problems of farmers on Saturday, said, “This is an anti-farmer government. BJP leaders who used to stage half-naked protests to demand implementation of recommendations of Swaminathan Commission report to ensure 50% profit on the cost input of crops are now MLAs and ministers in the Haryana government. But now they have nothing to do with the farmers.”
However, Haryana Finance Minister Captain Abhimanyu said, “Hooda, who is now protesting (for) the report of Swaminathan Commission, should tell the people of the state what he had done regarding this report. He has forgotten how, apart from forced acquisition of the land of farmers, they were offered cheques for Rs 2 or Rs 3 as compensation for losses due to crop damage during his regime, which just served to rub salt into their wounds.” Abhimanyu said the present government was taking consistent action on the report of the Swaminathan Commission report, which had been appreciated by Chairman of the Commission, Prof. M S Swaminathan himself.