Rajnandgaon farmers rue poor implementation of schemes, criticise Congress and BJP for unkept promises

Avdhesh Mallick | Apr 22, 2019 | 7 min read



By Avdhesh Mallick

They trusted the BJP for three assembly terms. They put their trust in the Congress in the last assembly polls. But in 2019, thoroughly disenchanted with both parties and their unkept manifesto promises, the farmers of Chattisgarh have decided to put their faith on one of their own. This new trend which has started from Rajnandgaon and may impact other Lok Sabha constituencies such as Durg, Raipur, Bilaspur, Korba, Janjgir-Champa, Raigarh where elections will be held on April 23rd, 2019, and farmer votes are counted among deciding factors.

Farmer party contesting election 

Sudesh Tikam of the Zilla Kisan Sangh, the farmers’ candidate in Rajnandgaon Lok Sabha constituency contesting as an independent, is a small farmer who has gained the trust of his fellow farmers with his relentless championing of their cause.

Chowkidar and Nyay have little resonance with the farmers of this constituency. The predominant feeling is one of being ignored and fooled by both BJP and Congress.


The presence of Sudesh Tikam in the fray and his campaign emphasis on farmers issues has made this important seat a three-cornered contest. It compelled BJP and Congress filed new faces on all the 11 Lok Sabha seats. 

“I am a small farmer myself and am aware of the problems faced by farmers, and not want to contest but the problems faced by farmers compelled me to fight for their rights",  Tikam said. 


The BJP and Congress are highlighting non-issues such as Mandir and Masjid, Hindu and Muslim. I want to give voice to the main issues affecting farmers, like MSP, price hike, unemployment, loan waiver, MGNREGs and forest rights, among others”.

The BJP had lost from Rajnandgaon, where 70 per cent of the population is dependent on paddy farming, only once since 1999. But lost six of the eight assembly segments to Congress last year. The farmers vote is crucial in this constituency. And while the new Congress government has gained some electoral points by increasing MSP for paddy soon after it took office, Sudesh Tikam points to other unaddressed issues like farmers indebtedness to money lenders, delays in settling insurance claims and continued dependence on an uncertain monsoon due to lack of irrigation infrastructure.

Farmer Plight


“I took insurance cover for my paddy crop under Pradhan Mantri Fasal Beema yojana in Rabi season but my claims are yet to be settled,” said Ramadhar of Dhangaon village, who cultivates paddy, gram and wheat in his 2.59 acres. “There is also no proper irrigation facility and with dry spell looming, I don’t know what to do”, he questions. 

Sudesh Tikam, who has the support of Chhattisgarh Janata Congress (Jogi), AAP and Sarwa Adiwasi Samaj is hoping to take advantage of the fact that farmers like Ramadhar are already getting disillusioned with the newly elected Congress government. “No government can survive without the support of farmers and if this government also neglects farmers, it will meet the same fate as the Raman Singh government,” said Sudesh, who has appealed not just for the farmers’ vote but also a contribution of Rs 10 from each farmer household.

Senior leaders from both parties are addressing farmers in the rural areas, with the Bhupesh Baghel government announcing a slew of farmer-oriented measures like loan waiver of Rs 2 lakh, paddy bonus, increase in MSP. And an exclusive scheme ‘Narwa Ghurwa’ to empower villagers and make the village economy self-reliant.

But poor implementation is the main complaint contestants will have to answer. “I have not benefited from any government scheme,” said Mochiram Thakur of Tendunullah who cultivates paddy on his 10 acre farm. “Farming has become costly. To cultivate one acre of paddy, I have to engage 40 labourers at Rs 200 per day and when the time comes to sell paddy in the market, we don’t get a fair price”. Then there is the cost of transportation and charges for agriculture equipment used in planting and harvesting.  “Tell me, where is the profit and how the famer is benefitted. From government to traders, all are engaged in looting the farmers”.

For Ishwari Ranjan Ram, another paddy cultivator, lack of any irrigation infrastructure and increase in input prices are the critical issues. Paddy MSP is now Rs 2500 a quintal, but does not take into account the increase in prices of DAP and fertiliser from Rs 1200 to Rs 1400 in the past month, he points out. “Instead of loan waiver we require a system which impartially calculates our investment including labour charges and provides us one and half times that cost. Otherwise survival as a farmer is very difficult”.

The lack of irrigation infrastructure can be met to some extent by “installing a lift irrigation system in Hasdeo river which is only 12 kilometres from here,” said farmers Homendra Sahu and Santosh of Kanhar Gauri village. “But the government and bureaucracy are more interested in construction of big dams and canals which are allocated to the urban population and industry, not to farmers”. 

Public sector banks do have several agri-based schemes like interest free loans, to help famers. But farmers say they rarely get access to such schemes. It becomes a vicious cycle, as one regional manager of a PSU bank said on condition of anonymity. “As farmers suffer losses, their capacity to replay loans is affected; they then fall under high risk category which bars them from getting loans”.

Farmer suicides and compulsions

The vicious cycle does not end there. With banks shutting them down, the farmers fall prey to the money lender. The spiralling debt then pushes the farmers into the ultimate escape---suicide. Media reports put statewide farmer suicides at 1344 in 2015-16, with 25 of them in Rajnandgaon.

Like Jain Singh Verma 51, of Sakin Kopedih, Rajnandgaon who committed suicide on October 5 last year. He had taken a loan of Rs 3.70 lakh from a local money lender, but even after repaying Rs 5 lakh, the money lender did not return his land patta, which led to Jain Singh taking his own life.

To survive, the family’s minor children were forced to work as farm labourers. Jain Singh’s father Shankar Lal Verma said that the family got no compensation and till date “has not received even the autopsy report of my son. Police told me that my son’s mental status was not stable hence he committed suicide”. Police officers were unavailable for comment on this.

“Several farmer families who lost their men due indebtedness got no compensation,” added farmer leader Motiram Sinha. “The government argues that if compensation is given, it will encourage farmers to commit suicide,” said Sudesh Tikam. “The BJP government sent teams to other states to study and report on this issue but no one has any idea what happened to that report and their recommendations”.

Government should held responsible for farmer suicides

“The government should be held responsible for farmers suicide,” said Sanket Thakur, agricultural expert and ex- convener AAP, Chhattisgarh. “No government recognizes farmers suicide as outcome of indebtedness, instead they say it is due to internal problem or family feud”.Spokespersons of the Congress and BJP inevitably refused to accept the farmers stories, added Thakur.

The resentment among the farmers is so high that it has compelled the Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address more two rallies in Chhattisgarh, said social Activist Anu Verma, who works on farmer issues.

“I agree much is left to be done,” said Congress spokesperson Kranti Banjare. “But we are doing our best to empower farmers”. “Terming BJP as anti-farmer is conspiracy of rival parties,” said BJP spokesperson Sri Chand Sundarani. “Doubling of farmers income by 2022 is our priority”.

Lots required to be done for farmers 

“Unfortunately, in India, rural infrastructure development has come to mean only highways and office buildings,” said Ashok Tomar, a political analyst. “There is hardly any other agriculture related infrastructure being built such as cold storage, godowns, food processing units. Farmers problems are hardly being heard in Delhi”.

Hopefully, people like Sudesh Tikam can correct that, with or without an election victory.


note- all the video and photo shared to Ankush

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