Broken Promises, Unpaid Dues: Haryana's Farmers Cry For Relief

Forget about doubling their income, Haryana’s farmers are living a life in penury

Photo: Tribhuvan Tiwari
Farm Distress: A farmer in Hisar waits for a buyer for his mustard crop Photo: Tribhuvan Tiwari

On a sultry May afternoon, 51-year-old Mahendra Singh wanders barefoot in Hisar’s new grain mandi (market). After a while, he gets tired and sits down on a pile of sacks filled with mustard. Mahendra says he has been coming to this market every day for the last 26 days, but no one is ready to buy his mustard crop at the Minimum Support Price (MSP) as promised by the government. Due to lack of electricity and water facilities in the villages, he had rented a generator for the maintenance of the crops. As he could not sell his crops, he has not been able to return the outstanding money for the generator to the owner. “This government has made us sad. Neither our crops are getting sold, nor are our children getting jobs,” says Mahendra.

Shyam Singh, an adhati (broker) from the same mandi, is trying to help Mahendra Singh. “For the last few years, the government has digitised the process of selling and buying crops. The work that we used to do here earlier is now being done on an online portal developed by the government. This has created a lot of confusion among farmers,” he says.

Predominantly an agricultural state, the total area of Haryana is 44 lakh hectares, of which more than 37 lakh hectares of land—about 84 per cent—is cultivable. Mainly, wheat, gram, sugar cane and oil seeds are cultivated here. In the last few years, the Union government has created many portals like eRAKAM and eNAM, using which, farmers can sell their crops online, but a big confusion has emerged among the farmers regarding the use of such portals. Farmers say that a limited time period is given to sell a crop through these portals. Since the time period is very short, it is difficult to pack the crop and register it in the portal. Although these government portals have talked about logistical support for the farmers, the farmers have denied receiving any such support.

Farmers discuss their woes in Sirsa
Farmers discuss their woes in Sirsa Photo: Tribhuvan Tiwari

Bharat Singh Jhajhra, a farmer in Narain Khera village of Sirsa, has a similar problem. He says that a large part of Haryana is rural and digital literacy is very low among the people. Digitising the process of crop distribution is a curse as many villages do not have either electricity or internet connectivity. So how can a farmer sell his crop through online mediums?

Sanjay Saran, a farmer from the same village, says: “In 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised to double the income of farmers by 2022. But today in 2024, farmers have been left in the lurch. Farmers are not getting the right price for their crops. They are also not getting good quality seeds and fertilisers. Modi had also started the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana, but more than half the farmers are not getting the benefits of that scheme.”

In August last year, some farmers of this village climbed onto the village’s water tank for 16 days. Their demand: the government should pay the crop insurance amount under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) to the farmers of Sirsa. This amount was Rs 624 crore. On the 16th day, the government fulfilled their demand after which these farmers came down from the water tank.

After the launch of PMFBY in 2016, many incidents of failure of this scheme have been found. In April this year, the government failed to find any insurance agency for PMFBY for seven districts of Haryana including Gurugram, Hisar and Jind. This year, farmers of these districts will not get the benefit of PMKBY in any distress situation.

Inside a tent made of green translucent cloth at Shambhu Border, Amrit Singh says that “we love our country, but the government has forced us to protest”. Amrit is from Rohtak and has been protesting along with his farmer friends at Shambhu Border for the last three months. When Amrit came to the Shambhu Border in February during the farmers’ protest, he suffered a fracture in his right hand after being hit by police batons. Amrit says that his father (who is sitting in the same tent) is a retired army official. In the last few years, his crops suffered losses seven times due to adverse weather conditions, but he got the benefit of crop insurance only twice.

The Lok Sabha elections in Haryana will be held on May 25, and crop insurance and farming are the biggest issues in these polls. Farmers of Haryana say that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been ruling at the Centre as well as in the state for the last 10 years, but it has been ignoring the issues of farmers. Even in the statements of the BJP’s Lok Sabha candidates, the farmers’ issues are far from visible, whereas they clearly come to the fore in every speech and statement of the opposition Congress candidates.

Senior Congress leader and candidate from Rohtak Deependra Hooda, says, “The BJP government has broken the trust of the people of Haryana in the last 10 years. The farmers, labourers and youth are fed up with BJP’s rule.” On the other hand, Ranjit Singh Chautala, the BJP’s Hisar candidate talks about taking Haryana on the path of a new developmental model. As voting for the Lok Sabha elections heads to the last phase, many unresolved issues are coming to the fore, and that may well decide the electoral outcome.

Vikram Raj in Hisar, Haryana

(This appeared in the print as 'Seeds Of Betrayal')