Sudhir Suryawanshi @ss_suryawanshi

Mumbai: Farmers from Vidharbha, Marathwada and some parts of the western Maharashtra are going through a worst-ever crisis situation. Parched lands, high fodder price, low price for milk and failure on part of the government to come out with any rescue package have forced many of them to sell their cattle as a last resort to survive.

Normally, farmers don’t part with cattle, mainly because they rely upon them for their livelihood. They raise loan, even on high interest rate, to salvage the situation. If raising the loan does not work out, they lent or sell jewellery, failing which they start selling land in portions.

Ganesh Khengre, farmer from Asthi in Marathwada told dna that earlier he used to own 20 cattle. “Now, I have just five; rest I sold in the cattle market. I cannot afford to keep them,” he said.

The government sources meanwhile claim that mitigation measures are already in place. Talking to dna over phone, Beed collector Naval Kishore Ram said a desperate situation prevails and farmers are selling off their cattle. “However, state government has already declared drought in this region and subsequently, compensation package of Rs 320 crore. The disbursement is in process,” he claimed.

Are govt policies to be blamed?

According to Vijay Jawandhia, a farmer leader, besides drought, the government’s wrong policies played havoc on the drought-hit farmers in Maharashtra. “There should be subsidy for jwar – food grains – because it is the main source of fodder for the animals. Earlier, 40 percent non-irrigated land was under jwar crops; now it is barely two per cent. The crop’s cultivation pattern also needs to be changed,” he said.

What else worsened the situation?

The government should have announced subsidy to food grains like jwar and bazaara, which could have ensured fodder prices at reasonable level, opine farmers. “Most of the farmers have taken to cotton and other cash crops, instead of growing fodder crops. The situation is alarming. If the authorities do not take immediate and right measures, then we will have to witness farmer suicides too,” said Jawandhia.

Will this impact rural economy?

The dwindling numbers of cattle will have an adverse impact on the rural economy, many fear. “Animal husbandry is known as the supplementary business to agriculture sector. The cattle manure is the best fertiliser, which replenish the soil and helps give a good yield,” said Shekhar Dongre, a 36-year-old farmer from Ahamadnagar district.

How far will selling cattle help?

Farmers complain that they are not getting good price for the cattle either. “Six months ago, one milk giving cow cost rupees one lakh. Now, it is being sold at Rs 40,000 or even less. It is even difficult to get the buyer in the market because every one is getting rid of their cattle,” said Sanjay Surve, a 42-year-old farmer from Beed district in Marathwada.

What has administration got to say?

Naval Kishore Ram, collector of Beed, says the Rs 320-crore drought compensation, announced by the government, will soon be disbursed. “We will also start doing the assessment on setting up fodder camps. It will be over by February-end and subsequently the proposal will be put up to government and by March, the fodder camps will commence,” he said adding that the change in crop pattern is to be blamed for the scarcity of fodder. “People are relying on the government help. However, we are committed to help the farmers,” Ram said.

Published Date:  Jan 30, 2015