Sandeep Singh: Farmers Defeat Modi In Paddy Procurement Battle
"It is not the first time it rained heavily before paddy harvesting, but it is the first time the government has postponed paddy procurement like this."
October 3, 2021 | 2 min. read | Original Reporting
In the battle of paddy procurement, the farmers have won as the BJP bows to pressure.
According to Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), the Modi regime will now start procurement from October 3 onwards. This comes after the government had initially postponed procurement from October 1 to October 11. The delay forced farmers away from homes longer than anticipated, and also kept paddy exposed to elements far longer than usual, including harvested goods in open-air mandis.
The government had originally delayed procurement in Punjab and Haryana pointing to heavy downpours in the area and its impact on moisture levels in the crop.
While the Modi government tried to excuse the delayed procurement over the possibility of high moisture levels, it could have continued the standard practice of simply testing moisture levels before purchasing. Typically, paddy is only bought if the moisture content is less than 16. Otherwise, farmers are told to dry their paddy in the sunlight. However, outright postponing procurement is unprecedented. There is also no guarantee that moisture levels would be better after October 11.
The unprecedented decision angered farmers and forced the SKM to call for the gherao of BJP-JJP MPs and MLAs in Haryana, and Congress and BJP MLAs in Punjab.
The protests were fierce and effective and forced the government to reverse course.
Amandeep Singh, who spent 20 lakh rupees in growing the crop, is from Fatehgarh Sahib and started covering four acres worth of paddy with a tarpaulin with the help of laborers.
“My entire paddy crop of 40 acres is ready to harvest but the government’s decision to not buy crop before October 11 has resulted in us only harvesting four acres. The remaining 36 acres is ready but it is getting ruined in rain.”
Amandeep Singh does not buy the government’s original excuse regarding moisture levels in delaying procurement.
“It is raining now and it won’t reduce the moisture level. It is not the first time it rained heavily before paddy harvesting, but it is the first time the government has postponed paddy procurement like this. I think the government is holding a grudge against farmers due to the Farmers’ Protest.”
Sukhbir Singh, who owns 20 acres, worries about the financial costs to farmers due to poor government decision-making.
“If we don’t harvest the crop now the paddy will fall flat, due to anticipated rain and wind, and it will lead to financial loss for us. If the government does not buy the crop now, then how are we supposed to pay our bills?”
The delays in procurement are unusual and played a critical role in protests. Jai Bhagwan shares that by October 10 last year, farmers had “sold nearly half of their crops.”
Tarsem Singh also shares frustration with the Modi government.
“The government should have started paddy procurement from September 25 as some varieties of paddy mature early compared to others. If we don’t harvest those varieties, they will get destroyed.”
The delays in full harvesting also have other long-term impacts, he explains.
“Farmers are getting late to sow their next crops like potatoes, peas, and barseem.”
Sandeep Singh hails from Machhiwara, Punjab. As an independent journalist, he has worked with many prominent Indian news organizations. Sandeep has been following the farmer’s protest in Punjab since its onset and traveled with them to Delhi. He spends most of his time at the Singhu border protest site. You can follow Sandeep on Twitter @Punyaab
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