Note ban: Chhattisgarh—Frustrated farmers, demoralised industries

After congratulating the Prime Minister for ‘Notebandi’, the state government has been deafeningly silent on miseries faced by farmers, with tomatoes dumped on highways and paddy sold at ₹7 a kilo



















Photo by Manoj Verma/Hindustan times via Getty
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Photo by Manoj Verma/Hindustan times via Getty Images
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Vinod Verma

The cooperative societies in Chhattisgarh normally procure paddy from farmers at ₹14.70 per kilo. But tribal farmers are being compelled to sell it to local traders for ₹7-8 per kilo and even for less if they need money quickly.

Cooperative societies are procuring paddy but they have not been able to pay the farmers because banks don’t have cash to pay. They are not even able to say how much time it would take them to arrange the payment. Tribal people can’t wait for bank payments. They after all have to go back to their villages.

Also there are not too many banks which have branches in remote tribal areas. People have to travel 20-30 km to find a branch, then also there is no guarantee that they will get the money.

“demonetisation a disaster for the tribal people”

Santram Netam is MLA of Keshkal assembly constituency of Bastar. He describes demonetisation as a disaster for the tribal people. He said, “When you see the poor farmers selling their paddy for half the Minimum Support Price then you have no option but to blame demonetisation.” Netam claims that not just paddy, farmers are being forced to sell all their forest produce for less than half the price that prevailed before November 8.

He recalls that when the demonetisation was announced, the tribal people living on hill top villages like Uperbedi, Chandeli, Chudawa and Maari etc. had to walk 20-25 km to exchange their money. Some of them had to wait for a couple of days to get their money exchanged, so they cooked their food somewhere near the banks and camped there to wait for the new currency. The local newspapers reported that in remote areas of the Bastar district, some tribal men walked the same distance to exchange just one ₹500 note.

Pathalgaon in north eastern district of Jashpur is known for its tomato production. This year they had a bumper crop but there are hardly any buyers. The local traders have fixed the tomato prices as low as 25 paise per kg citing the cash crisis because of demonetisation. The frustrated farmers dumped nearly 100 trollies of tomatoes on national highway on December 10, 2016

In BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh, these kind of stories are not confined to tribal areas only. Officials say that they have procured paddy worth more than ₹6,000 crores so far, but they have been able to pay only ₹1,350 crores to the farmers, because there is no money in the banks. It means that all that the farmers have is gone and they are yet to be paid for the same. They have to pay their debts, payments for harvesting are still due and they have to prepare for Rabi.

Pathalgaon in north eastern district of Jashpur is known for its tomato production. This year they had a bumper crop but there are hardly any buyers. The local traders have fixed the tomato prices as low as 25 paise per kg citing the cash crisis because of demonetisation. The frustrated farmers dumped nearly 100 trollies of tomatoes on national highway on December 10, 2016

The same frustration appeared in central district Durg on December 27, when farmers again dumped nearly 40 trollies of tomatoes on the road because of low prices offered by the traders. Prices for all vegetables are going down and farmers are frustrated. They are not even harvesting the crop now because the cost of harvesting is more than what they are getting for the produce.

In BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh, these kind of stories are not confined to tribal areas only. Officials say that they have procured paddy worth more than ₹6,000 crores so far, but they have been able to pay only ₹1,350 crores to the farmers, because there is no money in the banks

Industries in the state are also in bad shape. Many have to cut the shifts from three to one and they still don’t know how to pay wages to daily wages labours. News reports suggest that layoffs have already started and thousands of workers have been asked to go on leave for the next six months. There are indications that there would be more than 20,000 layoffs in next one month or so. Industrialists are clueless about how much time it would take them to regain the momentum. Traders are also equally demoralised but they are keeping quiet and analysing the situation.

Contract labourers are not getting jobs in urban area so they are going back to their villages. The village workers are already frustrated because they don’t have jobs under MNREGA scheme. Last year the state government had provided jobs for 47 days only, whereas the workers have the legal right to get 100 days of employment in a year. Newspapers are reporting that large number of villagers are now leaving the state in search of work in other states.


Vinod Verma is a senior journalist from Raipur based in New Delhi

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Published: 30 Dec 2016, 11:20 AM