Young farmers and social workers in Seoni district of Madhya Pradesh have launched an online campaign called ‘Kisan Satyagrah’ demanding that produce be bought above the minimum support price (MSP), and seeking to educate the urban population about agriculture.
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“Issues plaguing farmers shouldn’t be just about them,” said Navendu Mishra, 37, a social worker. “Although young farmers are not vocal about their problems, they are equipped with mobile phones and the Internet. Whereas, the urban population has a voice. By connecting the two, their demands can be amplified.”
The campaign kicked off with the demand that kharif maize in Seoni and Chhindwara districts be bought above the MSP of ₹1,760 per quintal set by the Centre. Reduced demand for poultry owing to rumours in the COVID-19 pandemic, but more significantly, imports from Ukraine, Myanmar and Russia, crashed prices locally.
While prices hovered around ₹1,900-2,100 per quintal in December in local mandis, they fell to ₹900-1,000 starting May, said Sateesh Rai, 32, a farmer in Seoni where maize was grown in 4,35,000 acre. “This meant we suffered a loss of ₹200-300 per quintal on the input cost, and ₹800-900 per quintal on the MSP,” he said.
To raise the demand for a fair price, farmers and supporters from cities are sharing their videos and photographs while holding placards on the platform’s handles on Facebook and Twitter. Further, many Facebook users have attached the campaign’s logo along with their display pictures to support the cause. And on June 11, nearly 1,000 persons nationwide heeded the campaign’s call for a day-long hunger strike to raise the demand.
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First, the campaign demands a commodity must not be imported if enough of it is grown domestically. “While the Prime Minister talks about ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’, we continue hurting our farmers,” said Mr. Rai. Second, the campaign wants MSP to be declared for all commodities grown and be complied with in markets.
The campaign hosts hundreds of farmers on a WhatsApp group where they post videos, later uploaded on social media. “For the information posted, we rely on both the practical experience of farmers and research,” said Mr. Mishra, part of a 10-member team that manages the handles.
In response to the campaign, said Mr. Rai, the Jabalpur division unit of the Madhya Pradesh State Agricultural Marketing (Mandi) Board, under which Seoni and Chhindwara fall, on June 1 directed mandi committees to prevent “cartelisation” during purchase and regulate auction prices on the MSP.
Farmers had held back their harvest from sale since December hoping for better prices in May-June, explained Mr. Rai. “But they had to sell it at lower prices. As a result, many have decided to shift to other crops such as soyabean and paddy for the next season,” he said.