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Farmers, govt divided over note ban impact

 Dhirendra Kumar |  2016-11-27 15:40:50.0  |  New Delhi

Farmers, govt divided over note ban impact

Just a few days after the demonetisation of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 currency notes, it was discussed that the move would make a huge impact on the farming sector as about 70 per cent of the agriculture and its allied sectors have dealings in cash only. Different types of views started flooding the discussion bazaar with someone supporting the decision, while others opined that it will be a devastating move for the non-lucrative agriculture sector and its dependents.

Reports about farmers not able to get seeds for sowing, fertilisers, and other essential items for their daily consumption started coming from the hinterlands as a result of which, the government allowed farmers to withdraw Rs 25,000 from their accounts and use the now-defunct Rs 500 notes for buying seeds. So, who are the ones really feeling the pinch of demonetisation? 

In reply to this, Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said, “Swapping old currency for new is not bothering 70 per cent of rural people because they generally deal in notes lower than Rs 500. But some political parties are trying to use farmers to try and reverse the move against black money, possibly because some leaders in those parties may be worried about steps against black money.”

When asked whether the farmers are criticizing the move, Singh said,”I met several farmers and their representations, but they have expressed their satisfaction. I categorise farmers in three categories; the first one is for NCR farmers living close to cities, the second category is for the farmers living in villages and the last one is for the ‘baudhik’ (intelligent) farmers living in cities. They are the ones suffering the most. I agree that the common farmer might have faced some problems when it came to arranging funds or standing in bank queues, but he is happy with this decision.”

The Agriculture Minister has his owns logic to defend the government’s stand, but experts have cautioned that if the situation doesn’t improve in the next 15 days, it’s imminent that production of rabi pulses would be down by 20 per cent. 

“Given that the sowing period for chana starts from the last week of October, which continues till last week of November, most farmers have already prepared their field for sowing of the pulses, but due to unavailability of cash in hand, they are not able to pay wages to the labourers,” said Ramesh Chandra Lahoti, who heads Grain Merchants’ Association of Bengaluru. 

Ganesh Nanote, a farmer from Vidarbha, who cultivates cotton, chana, masur etc, said, “The minister has to protect his government, but what about farmers like me, whose livelihoods are dependent on agriculture. 

We have cash with us, but it’s of no use as nobody is taking that defunct money. Queues at banks are so long that I’ve wasted three days in exchanging old notes.” When asked about its impact in near future, Nanote said, “I’m scared that this historic decision will be looked upon as one of the worst mistakes in the future.”

“Farmers faced drought in the first two years of this NDA government and in the third year when everything was going fine, we are having to face the brunt of demonetisation. 

It will be no surprise if forced famines become a reality due to note ban,” said Vinod Kumar, a farmer from Gaya in Bihar.

The shortage of high-value currency notes post demonetisation might have crippled normal life, but there is no impact of it on sowing of rabi crops. Though the sowing has been little delayed due to the shortage of cash with farmers, the latest report of Agriculture Ministry indicates that sowing acreage of wheat, pulses and oilseeds have increased when compared to the previous rabi season.

Dhirendra Kumar

Dhirendra Kumar

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