With more than three weeks of lockdown, about a dozen villages in Bundelkhand region have gone back to basics for survival. With no cash in hand- people of these villages comprising largely of small and marginal farmers have started buying things in exchange of wheat- adopting age old barter system.
‘I was left with no option. Most of my regular customers were left with no cash. They offered me wheat in lieu of products they wanted,’ said Pushpendra Vishwakarma, of Pahadi Khurd village of Tikamgarh district.
Citing an example he said that he accepted three kilograms of wheat to give one kg of sugar to his customer. ‘I sell sugar at Rs 45 per kg and wheat’s price is Rs 15 per kg- so one kg of sugar for three kg of wheat. About 80% of my regular clients are exchanging wheat to shop other things,’ said Vishwakarma.
During lockdown items like edible oil, biscuits, tea, soap, and namkeen (dry snacks) are the fast moving consumer goods.
Narayan Das of this village, who cultivates 3 acre land, said he had a good rabi (wheat) crop and yield was about 35 quintals. ‘Due to lockdown, we are unable to sell the crop. The local grain merchants are buying the crop at as low price as Rs 1400-1500 per quintal against government’s MSP (minimum selling price) of Rs 2025,’ said Narayan Das.
State government’s wheat procurement centres will take time to operate. They also take around two to three weeks to release payment. ‘We are left with no cash and are buying important things through barter to meet our needs,’ he added.
‘There are several women who have ‘Jan Dhan’ accounts but the bank is about 10kms far from here. Police doesn’t allow us moving out of the village,’ said a villager.
Bharat Ahirwar, who heads a five member family, took wheat cutting (harvesting) contract from few farmers on contract basis. ‘We were paid with 5 quintals of wheat for our work. Earlier, we used to get part cash and part in form of wheat. At present I am also buying essential items by exchanging it with wheat and retaining large part of wheat to sell later at the right price,’ said Bharat.
Other villages like Bhagwantpura, Srinagar, Kanganpurva, Durgapura etc of Tikamgarh district are also working on the same pattern to meet their daily needs.
This model has been replicated in several villages in the bordering Sagar district as well. Here several villages including Khapa, Chameli, Naunpur, Rabra, Kukwara, Dungariya have adopted barter system in absence of cash.
Pramod Sahu, a grocery shop owner, in Bobai village of Sagar district said that due to Covid induced lockdown people in this village are left with no cash. ‘Wheat procurement hasn’t started yet so most of the farmers don’t have cash. Had the mandis been open, cash flow in the village would have diffused the liquidity problem,’ said Pramod Sahu. Till date he has accumulated around 7-8 quintals of wheat through barter system.
Gorelal Sen, of same village said that he took her mother to Barodia village, about 8 kms, to withdraw her two months pension that amounted to Rs 1200, on a bicycle. ‘I kept waiting at the bank for about three hours but I was told that server was down and I had to return empty handed,’ said Gorelal.
Influential farmer of the region, Vinod Tiwari said that he faced difficulty in getting his 50 acre farm harvested. ‘I gave the labourers two options. Either take the wages when the crop is sold in mandi or take wheat in exchange,’ said Tiwari.