Farm activist Kishore Tiwari has asked the state government to act against cotton ginners and pressers who will not reopen their units in the coming days. Tiwari told The Indian Express that suspension of gin operations has put Maharashtra’s cotton growers under stress as 30 per cent of the produce is still with farmers.
Though cotton ginners have suspended operations till May 3, the Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) has signaled the restarting of Minimum Support Price (MSP) operations after Dr. Alli Rani, CMD, CCI, had written to district collectors to in this regard. Market committees have been asked to ensure social distancing and avoid crowding at procurement centres.
However, ginners are reluctant to restart due to labour shortage and fear of infection. Although most ginning and pressing units are located in the rural heartland, a majority of the labourers are mirants who have left for their home states.
Tiwari, who had headed the state government’s committee to study farm distress, asked the government to take steps to ensure smooth running of MSP operations. The refusal of gin and press owners association to reopen, he said, was a violation of their agreement with the CCI. “The Corporation should take action against the ginners who fail to start their operations,” he said.
The CCI’s procurement operations are run at the ginning and pressing units, which it leases out. Tiwari said the contracts have a clause which mandates them to continue running during the entirety of MSP operations. “Due to the recalcitrant attitude of the ginners, the MSP operations are in question,” he said.
Tiwari, who is from the cotton growing district of Yavatmal in Vidarbha, said the suspension of MSP operations has put cotton growers under financial distress. “I have got reports that some farmers were made to sell their produce at dirt cheap rates,” he said. Tiwari said he has spoken to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and now plans to take the matter to the Union ministry level.