Rural communities, who had been reeling under nearly two years of drought were looking forward to the rabi crop.
Narela: The government’s move to start replacement of high-value currencies has delivered a body blow to the farmers and farm labourers who rely on the Narela anaj mandi, wholesale market for crops in the outskirts of Delhi. The farmers who rely mainly on cash transactions are in acute distress and some even spoke of mortgaging whatever land they have.
Ranjit, a farmer from Sonepat, who had come to sell his stock of wheat is in dire straits. Ranjit has no bank account and his new currency notes are fast running out. “In the last season I had sold my crop and was paid in old currency, which are now useless. I don’t know what to do. I have no other option, but to mortgage my land in Sonepat,” he said.
According to the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, a majority of the farmers at Narela Anaj Mandi are severely hit by the demonetisation move, which apparently has been launched to curb the circulation of black money.
The Modi government’s move to crush the shadow economy could hardly have come at a worse time. Millions of farmers flock this “Anaj mandi”, Asia’s biggest wheat and rice wholesale market, everyday to buy provisions and sell their agriculture produce. With rabi (winter) season approaching these farmers at the mandi claimed that they “don’t have enough cash” to buy the seeds and fertilisers they need for their winter crops. Rural communities, who had been reeling under nearly two years of drought were looking forward to the rabi crop.
“We are running out of time and have not enough money to buy the seeds and fertilisers,” said Jasbeer, who has come from Rohtak in Haryana. Jasbeer is one of the few farmers who had ploughed their fields to sow rabi crop of wheat and mustard and is now running from pillar to post to get fertilisers and seeds. “Earlier, we used to get seeds and fertilisers on credit. Now even that has stopped,” Jasbeer said while others echoed in agreement.
The APMC member claimed that “despite the government’s directive of allowing purchase of seeds, fertilisers, and pesticides with old notes for the upcoming rabi season, majority of the cooperatives, government-run shops were not accepting the old Rs 500 notes”.
While the government has been talking about the success of Jan Dhan accounts, a large number of farmers did not seem to have bank accounts. Joginder from Haryana is one of them who is now stuck with old currency notes. “I had sold my crop before the demonetisation scheme and don’t know what to do with them. I don’t have any bank account,” Joginder said. Asked why he didn’t open a Jan Dhan account, Joginder said he “thought keeping hard cash at home will be more useful”.
The government has been on record saying that it was moving fast to “increase the cash-flow to the rural areas”. The APMC member and other farmers refuted the claim. They alleged that the cooperative banks, which were expected to be loaded with cash have been “shooing away” the farmers for “lack of cash”. Jaswant, a farmer, who has been coming to this market for years lashed out and accused the government for its lack of sensitivity. “They don’t know how it feels to see your children craving for food and going to sleep with an empty stomach,” he seethed.
As for the ATMs this correspondent spotted two of them in and around the mandi. While one had its shutter down the other had no cash.