Tamil Nadu

Prices should match rising cost: Cauvery S. Dhanapalan

Alongside the protest against the three new farm laws, issues concerning agriculture have dominated the political discourse in Tamil Nadu as the government came up with one announcement after another in the run-up to the Assembly election.

Although measures such as loan waiver and compensation for crop damage provide succour to farmers, many in the Cauvery delta region believe the agrarian crisis runs deeper. Vagaries of monsoon and the uncertain flow in the Cauvery, labour shortage and rising wages, spiralling cultivation costs and poor returns have all worn down the farmers.

“The foremost concern is that returns do not match production cost — be it of paddy, sugar cane, cotton or any other crop,” says Cauvery S. Dhanapalan, general secretary of the Cauvery Farmers Protection Association.

The crop loan waiver is, no doubt, a big help, but not enough by itself, argues P. Ayyakkanu, president of the Desiya Thennidia Nadigal Inaippu Vivasayigal Sangam. “What we need is remunerative prices. The Swaminathan Commission recommended providing a 50% profit to farmers over and above the cost of cultivation. The Narendra Modi government promised to double the income of farmers. But they have not materialised,” he rues.

Some contend that not all farmers stand to benefit from the crop loan waiver. “What about those who have raised loans from commercial banks and other sources. Besides, medium-term loans are not covered under the waiver. Honest farmers who have been repaying loans do not stand to benefit. Significantly, the short-term loans were rescheduled as medium- term loans at the behest of the government after Cyclone Gaja,” points out Mr. Dhanapalan. He suggests that the government extend incentives for cultivation, on the lines of the schemes being implemented in Andhra Pradesh and Puducherry, as a direct support measure.

With discontent over hydrocarbon exploration dominating electioneering in the delta in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, the government sought to garner some goodwill by declaring the delta region a protected agricultural zone. “But we are yet to see any tangible benefit out of it. For instance, illegal sand mining from rivers continues at many places,” says V. Jeevakumar of Thanjavur.

There are also apprehensions over the farm laws, the Mettur-Sarabanga Lift Irrigation Project and even the Cauvery-Gundar link project, which has been largely welcomed in the Pudukottai district though. “Any talk of diversion of surplus water of the Cauvery raises apprehensions among delta farmers,” points out Mr. Jeevakumar.

P.R. Pandian of the Tamizhaga Cauvery Vivasayigal Sangam alleges that the Mettur- Sarabanga Project to divert “surplus” flows from the Mettur dam would render the delta a desert. A few farmers in Karur, too, question the diversion of surplus waters for the Cauvery-Gundar link project. “Is it worth the investment? They can at best divert flood waters for 10 days in a year,” says M. Shanmugam, a farmer of Marudur. However, farmers’ representatives welcome the prominence given to agriculture.

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Printable version | Apr 11, 2021 12:50:39 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/tamil-nadu-assembly/prices-should-match-rising-cost/article34009871.ece

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