Devi Chand (50) grows apples on around 3 acres of land divided in 8-10 hilly patches in Manali’s Shuru village. Chand, who sells his produce through arhtiyas, says apples are sold as per grading and MSP plays no role in the sale of his crop. As farmers’ protests refuse to die down in neighbouring Punjab and Haryana, the Himachal farmer says he does not know much about Centre’s farm laws.
“What are these laws? When were they passed? I don’t know much about them. But we are already selling our apples on our own at our own risk. Government hardly plays any major role, hence I don’t know whether it will change anything for us or not,” he tells The Indian Express.
Two other apple farmers — Joginder Chand and Sham Thakur of Burua village — this paper spoke to also seemed oblivious about the farm laws and their impact.
“Himachal farmers hardly have any MSP support on any crop. We are surviving on our own, by our small land holdings and tourism. If we start sitting on hunger strikes or organise protest rallies, who will take care of our farms. These laws were passed last month as you are telling me when we were busy harvesting and marketing our apple crop and are still busy, so for us making both ends meet is more important. This year’s apple season went well,” said Thakur.
Joginder Chand added, “In Himachal Pradesh, Rs 8.50 is the marketing intervention scheme (MIS) to purchase apples which are damaged a bit or are left unsold due to quality issues. Otherwise, for our crop, we need to depend on commission agents.”
Rewat Ram (46), a farmer from Prini village, said, “In Punjab, farmers have large land holdings, MSP plays a role in two major crops and hence, they have reasons to worry. We are surviving on our own. So, farmers here are not even bothered to know what are these farm laws.”
Farmers of Khakhnal, Gojra, Jagat Sukh too expressed ignorance about farm laws and their impact on Himachal farmers.
Jagdish Chand added, “TV channels show that in Punjab farmers are not protesting, but netas are instigating them to do so. They are burning tractors in name of protests, this is not justified. Punjab’s farmer has not worked manually for decades together now. We still work manually, do marketing as well and hence we are not much bothered about farm laws. Moreover, Himachal Pradesh has never taken part in any major protests even in the past. Here polls too happen quietly.”
Chand, however, admitted that sometimes, they get good prices of apples and at times, commission agents cause delay in payments or even pay less. “It all depends upon the crop in a particular year,” he said.
Kuldeep Singh Tanwar, president of Himachal Pradesh Kisan Sabha, argued: “It is not that farmers are unaware, but these days they are busy with harvesting and marketing of crops. As PM Narendra Modi has said that now India’s farmers can sell their product anywhere in the country, but for Himachal’s farmers it is happening for years. Our farmers do farming of vegetables like capsicum, cauliflower, tomato, beans, peas, potato etc and they sell these vegetables in any part of the country on their own with their own tie-ups. Similar is the case for apple farming. However, as apple is a major cash crop in Himachal Pradesh, APMC Mandis Act as a regulator between farmer and private purchaser. At times farmers are cheated as well over payment. Thus government’s pressure is there on cancelling the licence of commission agents, therefore some security is there for getting payment of crops. After farm laws, private purchasers will not be bound to purchase through APMC mandis and hence in that case, we can expect exploitation of farmers. Most of the crops grown in Himachal Pradesh are not covered under MSP. Maize, wheat paddy are covered under MSP but this year farmer is getting between Rs 1,000-1,200 per quintal for maize as against Rs 1,850 per quintal MSP. There is no check on private players to purchase it on MSP. Farmers sell wheat and paddy in Punjab’s mandis at times when they don’t get MSP here.”
He added, “In 2014, in a pre-poll rally Narendra Modi had told Himachal farmers that they will be given MSP on flowers, milk, cold storages for tomatoes, garlic, apples etc. But 6 years have passed and no MSP has been given on the products announced by PM and now there is danger that even the price on existing crops may also get slashed further.”
“For maize crop, it has happened after many years that prices are below MSP, but do they slash prices of cornflakes, popcorns etc made by companies? Rather they are increasing prices of these processed products . Farmers, here too are worried as 86 per cent of the farmers have land less than 2 acres. We will be participating in protests announced by All India Kisan Sangrash Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) on November 26,” said Tanwar.
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