GUWAHATI, April 8 - The COVID-19 induced lockdown has made survival a huge challenge for a section of farmers.
Due to the restrictions enforced by the police amidst the lockdown, it has become impossible for farmers like Bikram Sarkar and Anowar Hussain from Barpeta and Wajuddin Ahmed from Kharupetia to sell their produce, and to add to their ordeal, an unprecedented scarcity of fuel, which they need for irrigating their agricultural fields, is making life even more difficult for them.
�I am extremely worried as to how I can keep my crops intact without irrigation. Since the first day of the lockdown, all nearby petrol depots have remained closed and fuel has become more and more scarce with every passing day. In such a situation, a section of people have started selling fuel in the black market at a much higher price. With no other option, I too purchased 10 litres of diesel at Rs 85 per litre a few days back,� Hussain said.
The existing scenario is in stark contrast to what the State government machinery has been claiming. Like grocery and medical supplies, fuel too was supposed to be easily available amidst the lockdown.
Hussain alleged that so far no official from the government side has visited their village to purchase their produce. Most of the families in the village are agriculture-based. Some of them are debt-ridden, having already taken loans to invest in their fields, and they are truly feeling the heat now.
�After the lockdown, a few vegetable suppliers had come to our village and purchased a large amount of vegetables at a very low cost. But, ever since police started beating up people indiscriminately in the streets while enforcing the restrictions, the suppliers too stopped coming. If this situation continues for some more days, it would become impossible to repay the loans,� he said.
Bikram Sarkar stated that he is staring at a loss of over one lakh rupees because of the lockdown. �It is the prime season for us. If this situation continues, then we will face critical financial hardships in the coming days. I also have a bank loan. But, as of now, I have no idea as to how am I going to pay the instalment,� Sarkar lamented.
Echoing the same sentiments, Wajuddin also said that the farmers of the Kharupetia locality are in morbid fear about repaying their loans and paying interest against their debt.
�Most of the farmers in my area had taken loans at the rate of 25 per cent interest for farming. In such a situation, repaying such debts would be nearly impossible for us. Since the first day of the lockdown, we have not been able to sell any produce,� he said. �Unfortunately no official from the agriculture department has visited our area, where 90 per cent of the people are farmers,� rued Wajuddin.