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The Budget Connection: ‘Had we not had grains at home, we would not have survived lockdown’

Resham grows wheat and paddy in rabi and kharif seasons, respectively, on one acre of land. On the other half-acre, he grows fodder for his cattle.

Written by Anju Agnihotri Chaba | Jalandhar |
Updated: February 2, 2021 10:50:48 am
budget, budget 2021, farmers protest, farm laws, covid lockdown, farmers and covid lockdown, indian express newsResham Singh, 55, a farmer, says he has been to Singhu border twice to protest against the farm laws. (Express photo by Anju Agnihotri Chaba)

It’s been a double whammy for Resham Singh (55), a marginal farmer with 1.5 acres of land in Gill village in Jalandhar district. “My income has decreased in the past four years because of high input costs of agriculture,” he says. Then the Covid-19 pandemic shrunk his income further, leaving him no option but to consume part of the grains he had produced.

Resham grows wheat and paddy in rabi and kharif seasons, respectively, on one acre of land. On the other half-acre, he grows fodder for his cattle. “I am a small farmer, and do not have much to sell in the market. I also rear two cattle for milk, and have a part-time job as a driver in a private school,” he says.

The Budget Connection

While the government has offered to put farm laws on hold for 18 months, it has assured prices of at least 1.5 times cost of production for commodities. Higher procurement has also meant a substantial increase in payments for farmers.

“Had we not had grains at home, we would not have survived the lockdown,” says Resham. “After keeping some grains for self-consumption, I was left with 10 quintals of wheat and 20 quintals of paddy.” After selling those for Rs 55,000 before and during the Covid-19 outbreak, and spending Rs 25,000 as input cost, “I was left with Rs 30,000, which is not enough to survive even two months.”

“During the lockdown, the milk collector did not come to our village for two months. We gave the milk to needy villagers,” says Gurmej Kaur, Resham’s wife.

Resham got Rs 8,500 per month for driving a school bus, but had to take a 50% salary cut as schools were shut, says Gurmej. The school is still closed, and the salary cut continues.

To make up for the deficit, Resham took a 4-acre land on contract to grow maize, but this proved a failure as the market rate of maize was slashed to less than 50% of MSP of Rs 1,850 per quintal. “I could not even recover the input cost and rent of the fields,” he says.

Resham is a beneficiary and strong votary of the PM Kisan scheme. “Small farmers like me are happy with any such scheme because we hardly have cash,” he says.

Regarding the Budget, he says, “I could not find anything in it for farmers. The government still says that farmers’ income will be doubled by 2022-23 but there is no roadmap in the budget. Despite the farmers’ protest, this Budget will not change the fate of small farmers like me.”

Resham has gone to the Singhu border twice to support the farmers’ protest. “Instead of bringing pro-corporate laws, the government should have ensured MSP for all crops,” he says.

Resham and Gurmej could not afford higher education for their son and daughter, who are now married. One of their NRI relatives invited the son to the US in 2018. He works as a driver in a transport company there.

“We lived in penury despite the government’s promises to enhance farmers’ income. We don’t want the same life for our children,” says Resham’s wife, who has pinned her hopes on her son to change their fate.

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