As soon as PM Modi announced the 21-day nationwide lockdown almost everyone, from all sections of the society, started panicking.
First, we saw middle-class people hoarding household supplies, next were the long lines of migrant workers that had nowhere to go, then the rising cases of domestic violence. Under them, the plight of Indian farmers, like always, remained hidden.
It’s strange that even though we consider them our heroes, farmers are never included in our plan of actions.
Let’s consider the most recent example of this. When PM Modi announced the 21-day lockdown to control the spread of COVID-19, on March 24, agricultural services were not included in the ambit of essential services.
It took the central government three whole days to amend the lockdown to include agricultural activities in the list of essential services.
Farmers, all over India are and would be largely affected by the lockdown. Here are just a few examples of the same.
1. No labour in Punjab.
Farmers in Punjab are worried about the availability of farm labourers. Most of the farm work in Punjab is done by migrant workers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
As most of the workers have gone back to their homes and harvesting season is coming up ahead, who will work on the farms is a question that looms large over their heads.
2. Unable to find seller, farmers feed strawberries to cattle.
Since the supply and demand of premium products like strawberries and grapes are affected due to the lockdown, farmers who produce these are finding it difficult to sustain themselves.
Due to the unavailability of buyers, farmers are being forced to feed strawberries to cattle, costing them a huge loss.
3. Farmer dumps tonnes of tomato into a lake.
Another example of frustrated farmers came from Karnataka when a young farmer dumped several crates of tomato into a lake as he could not sell his products due to the lockdown.
He even left a video message to his local MP, saying that, “The U.K. Prime Minister is also infected with COVID-19 but he is discharging his duties. Where are you MP and MLAs from the district?”.
4. Fruit farmers might face a loss of Rs. 7,000 crore.
In a report published by Money Control, fruit farmers of India would be hit by a loss of Rs. 7000 crore. This is because of the decrease in demand and the difficulty in transporting the final products to the mandi.
5. Farmers destroy millions of flowers due to lack of demand.
Flowers that are otherwise in demand, with or without Valentine’s Day is finding no buyer during the lockdown period. This lack of demand is forcing the farmers who grow flowers to destroy their produce.
6. Rotting of crops
Owing to the lack of demand, coupled with unseasonal rains and shortage of labourers, farmers in Karnataka and Maharashtra complain that their crops are left to rot.
A cotton farmer told The Print, “I have lost so much. The cotton is lying in the godown with no buyer. What was kept in the fields has been destroyed by the unseasonal rains”.
The agricultural sector accounts for more than 50 per cent of the total workforce of India and contributes roughly 17-18 per cent to the country’s GDP. Despite this, the farmers are somehow always missed out on when we talk about development and growth.