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Pungent garlic troubles BJP in its Rajasthan stronghold

AM Jigeesh Kota/ Baran/ Jhalawar | Updated on November 20, 2018 Published on November 20, 2018

Garlic farmers at a vegetable market in Kota, Rajasthan on Tuesday

Due to falling prices, BJP draws ire of Hadoti farmers famous for growing garlic

Two years ago, when the BJP government directed foodgrain markets in State to start buying garlic from farmers, considering it as a spice and not as a vegetable, it created a recipe for a political disaster with the “spice” having turned sour and bitter for the cultivators in 2018.

The ruling party believed that the decision will help garlic farmers of Hadoti region (comprising Kota, Baran, Bundi and Jhalawar districts) to get some breather from the dwindling prices as they will get another market than the vegetables markets to sell it.

Falling prices

But it led to over-production and the prices came fell further. The area also witnessed a dozen suicides committed by garlic farmers. Hadoti farmers, famous for garlic, are up in arms against the BJP. The crop’s prices saw a dramatic decrease in the last three years. In 2013-2015, the average price given to farmers for garlic was between ₹80 and ₹200 depending on the quality. Prices fell in 2016 and this year in April, the rate was between ₹2 and ₹30.

The area has been a stronghold of the BJP and the Sangh Parivar. In 2013, the party nearly swept all the seats winning 16 out of 17 in the four districts. Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje is a candidate from the region and the BJP is facing a tough anti-incumbency due to the decrease in garlic prices.

There is 13 lakh hectares of cultivable land in the area. Out of this, garlic is cultivated in about two lakh hectares. Estimated production is about 120 lakh quintals. “The entire issue is a result of marketing derangement,” said Dasarath Kumar of the Hadoti Kisan Union. Kumar said the government encouraged farmers to farm garlics to stop imports, and when the production increased it looked the other side.

Farmers claimed that the market intervention scheme (MIS), announced after protests by farmers, benefited only a few farmers close to the BJP. “They said they will procure garlic at a price of ₹3257 per quintal. But just 7 per cent was procured by the government.

“Nearly 93 per cent was procured by private agencies at a rate ranging from ₹200- ₹2500 per quintal. Naturally, this led to farmers suicides due to depression,” said Kisan Sabha leader Dulichand Borda.

Ramesh Chand, a farmer in Jhalwar, who has two bighas (0.80 acre) of garlic cultivation said he received a token from the government to collect garlic two months ago, but hasn’t received the date to handover the produce. “I can’t wait for this long,” he said.

Ashwini Gaur, who has taken abour 40 bigha of land on lease at Anta in Baran for farming garlic, said the last two years have been of distress and sorrows. “My expense for one bigha is ₹25000. In 2015, I got ₹150 per kilo for the best quality garlic. This time it is just ₹25 and for the second grade it is between ₹2 and ₹10 a kilo,” Gaur said.

Pervez Khan, another farmer from the area said there has been an increase of 25 per cent in garlic cultivation in his village in Baran in last two years. “But we have no minimum support price and only big farmers who are friendly with the BJP leaders benefited from MIS,” Khan said.

In Khetun near Kota, Ramesh has been farming garlic four 12 years. He is a BJP supporter and was an RSS activist. “Had it not been under Vasundhara Raje, BJP would have won this election easily. But she is anti- farmer and did nothing for us,” he said. “I had the best quality garlic in this village and got just ₹20 a kilo,” he said.

Mahesh Khandelwal, the joint secretary of Kota Grains and Seeds Merchants Association, said the issue can be solved only if the Rajasthan government helps to launch a garlic processing unit in the area. “The traders’ association is ready to start such a unit if the government provides us with land, water and electricity at a subsidised rate. In this Bhamashah Mandi of Kota, we get 5000 quintals of garlic every day throughout the year. During the season, it goes up to 20000 quintals a day. We don’t stock it here, but if we had a processing unit here, it will benefit both the farmers and the traders. The price can also be stabilised if production is linked with industries by adding value,” Khandelwal said.

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Published on November 20, 2018
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