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Demonetization: Gujarat farmers "reveal" how they are suffering, yet say they are scared to talk about it

By Pankti Jog*
Ben majoor manasoni daya nathi avti sarkarne” (sister, government does not even pity for these daily labourers). A farmer from Surendranagar district of Gujarat told me on our Right to Information (RTI) helpline number, 9924085000. He continued telling me about the status of agricultural workers in the area.
Farmers pay them Rs 100 to Rs 140 as wages plus tea, and Rs 20 for gutkha for 5 hours of work. However, for the last 15 days, no one is calling them for work. Wage rates have fallen down to Rs 60 for 5 hours. Agricultural laborers in around 28 villages of Kharagodha of Patadi area in the district are now ready to go for work at the cost of their daily food.
When farmers tell agricultural workers that they can’t be engage due to shortage of cash, many of these labourers say, “No problem, give us food”. Agricultural labourers from many of the villages are making their daily living by having bajra rotla and chutney as they can’t afford anything beyond this. Farmers are getting concerned over the status of agricultural labourers, who have begun dialling RTI helpline for rescue and guidance.
Many of the farmers have chosen to cultivate only 60% of their land due to cash crisis. “Once we sow seeds, we require money to be given to labourers, for buying fertilizers and pesticides, and for using tractors. Banks in our areas do not have any cash. We can’t let our crop die, hence we chose to sow only 60% of the land and leave 40% as fallow”, said a farmer on RTI helpline.
“As large amount of land will be fallow in this area, demand for agriculture labour will be go down throughout the season. This is not going to settle in 50 days”, added another farmer.
Pankti Jog
Another type of issue came up with bhagiya share croppers. Farmers gave them advance in the same week when the government declared ‘notebandhi’ (demonetization).
“I had Rs 20,000 saved from the rainy season crop, and as I was to continue with the same farmer from whom I received Rs 70,000 towards advance for the jeeru crop. On the next day, however, I had to put all of Rs 90,000 in my account, which will now be considered as my ‘income’,”, complained a sharecropper.
“And I am not been able to withdraw money. My jeeru season is gone, as I need cash now to sow, to buy fertilizer and pesticides”, the share cropper, who belongs to Santalpur block of Patan district, said, narrating his plight over the helpline.
Another caller, who is a famer from Amreli district, had asked four agricultural labourers' families from far away Jhabhua to help him on his far. He said, he was standing in queue throughout the day to get Rs 4,000 after three days. He was supposed to pay Rs 10,000 per family as advance once they reached his farm. Sounding tense, he wondered whether his name would be spoiled if he did not pay pay them on time.
“Why don’t you raise this issue?”, I asked each of the callers. Not one among hundreds of callers wished to share their names in public. “Please do not take our names”, was the cryptic reply. Most of them requested: “We don’t want to be looked like talking against the government”.
People across rural Gujarat are suffering because of demonetization, but are scared to talk about it.
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*Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel, Ahmedabad

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