The three-fold mantra of this school dropout is technology, quality and crop rotation. Verma has been rotating five crops over the last two years, and it’s this that has helped him stave off any slowdown in a single crop. "Once you are growing five different crops, the ups and downs are automatically taken care of. For instance, if the price of banana went down, that of potato shot up; likewise, the high yield of tomato sufficed to meet the downswing in its price," he explains.
The risk cover Verma derived out of switching from banana to tomato to potato to mentha to wheat has become increasingly popular with farmers in a large part of not only Barabanki, but also in neighbouring districts like Lakhimpur Kheri, Sitapur and Sultanpur. Interestingly, even as Verma was tilling a huge area of 85 acres, his ownership continues to be limited to a paltry six acres. The rest is cultivated under a contract arrangement, where he pays the owners a "decent rent".
Verma did not avail of the loan waiver scheme doled out by the UPA government. However, there were many other small and marginal farmers, both in the neighbourhood as well as in the villages around Lucknow who made the most of it. Even though the Union government’s decision was taken well ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, it’s bound to have a bearing on the forthcoming polls. Of course, in certain areas, target beneficiaries regard loan waivers as a sort of birthright.
Yet, no one is denying the waiver’s positive impact. "Had it not been for the loan waiver, I would have been behind bars for not repaying the Rs 20,000 I took to buy a buffalo. It died from a snake bite," says 58-year-old Pancham of Daudnagar in Mohanlalganj block, of Lucknow. Similarly, for Babu Lal, a 45-year-old Dalit living in Maste-Mau village, "the loan waiver of Rs 37,000 came as a life-saver". Otherwise, he would have had to sell part of his tiny holding to repay the loan.
The NREGs too has helped in a state where there is much suffering and exploitation. "I have first-hand experience of how NREGs has not only enhanced wages of agriculture labour, but has also provided empowerment to a class that could never demand a price for its day’s toil," Magsaysay awardee Sandeep Pandey told Outlook.
Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow and Barabanki