Mumbai: Even as the city was lit up for Navratri and Dussehra celebrations, a cloud of despair had descended on the homes of onion farmers in Nashik district. It has been more than 10 days since onion growers and sellers have jointly refrained from supplying the bulbs to the wholesale market in protest. They are seeking withdrawal of export curbs and the restriction on stock imposed by the government.
The Centre has banned the export of onions in order to tackle the current shortfall across the country. Maharashtra is the primary producer of onions in India but because of the vagaries of the monsoon this year, with severe drought in some areas and severe floods in others, crop production has suffered.
“Promises of fulfilling our demands and needs are only limited to election manifestos only. In general, nobody cares about us,” said Hansraj Wadgule, a farmer leader from Nashik.
Since the boycott, Wadgule’s family has been under severe financial strain as they are not selling any produce to the wholesale market. Wadgule has blamed the government for failing to tackle the floods of western Maharashtra.
“We are not boycotting for fun, we are going through a huge financial crunch in this festive season. We don’t know whether our demands will be met, but we are compelled to take such a step,” added Wadgule.
Sanjay Sathe is another popular leader in the farming community at Nagpur, in the boycott. He claims it was necessary for farmers to take this step, as the authorities need to know the community stands united. He also stated, the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) at Nashik’s Lasalgaon, doesn’t give enough attention to the demand of the farmers and producers. While both retailers and wholesalers keep exploiting the farmers, not giving them their rightful share of the profit.
“We produce the food which everyone eats, but ironically, we go to sleep on an empty stomach every night,” stated Sathe.
Both, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and the Sena candidate Aaditya Thackeray, have been campaigning for the assembly elections in rural Nashik. But their roadshows have merely a display of grandeur and power, as they did not seem bothered about the problems of the people, Sathe feels.
“Politicians conduct roadshows shielded by security guards but they don’t get down from their jeep and talk to the villagers about what is bothering them. Aaditya calls himself a son of the soil but he does not know what is actually bothering us,” he claimed.
This is not the first time Sathe has raised his voice. Earlier, last November he had made headlines by sending a cheque of Rs 1,064 to Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. This was the amount he had earned by selling 750kg of onion at Rs 1.40 per kilo.
But every time he raised his voice, the authorities said his actions were an attempt to defame the government.
“Even if the government wants, it won't be able to do anything as it is controlled by those sitting in New Delhi, who have zero knowledge about ground realities,” Sathe added.
Meanwhile, Bharti Pawar, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) MP from the Nashik constituency said, he has been trying to push for farmers' demands but an approval from the higher authority is awaited.
Days before the boycott began, around 200 trucks from Nashik, laden with onions worth Rs 3 crore were stopped at the Indo-Bangladesh border. It was due to his efforts, the trucks were allowed to cross the border, Pawar claims.