New Delhi: Despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s stress on efforts to complete rabi crop harvesting, the shortage of labour and machinery due to the lockdown clamped to prevent the spread of coronavirus has caused great difficulties in ensuring the same and the situation has created fear among farmers of losing their farm produce.
A bumper wheat crop in farms across the nation is standing for harvest, but in the absence of labour and transportation due to the lockdown in place, lakhs of farmers are forced to watch their crops rot in the farms like mute spectators.
Although PM Modi has suggested the use of machinery for smoothly completing the harvesting process and also sought help from entrepreneurs in providing a solution like “truck aggregators” to connect farmers with mandis, in reality, the equipment, including harvesters, are in short supply.
Anand Jakhad, a farmer from Haryana’s Rohtak district, is struggling to arrange some labour and harvester driver for harvesting of wheat, but he has so far not had any success as a large section of migrant labourers are stuck in big cities or returned to their respective villages. He is one of the lakhs of farmers desperately looking for help to harvest wheat.
Wheat is the country’s main rabi crop and farmers in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh (UP), Madhya Pradesh (MP), and Gujarat, are frantically looking for labour and machinery supplies to complete harvesting. As per the Agricultural Ministry’s data, UP contributes 35% of the total rabi crop production in the country. With 21% crop production, Punjab is at the second position, while with a 13.2% contribution, Haryana is in the third position.
Around 80% of the farmers in all these states rely on traditional farm labourers who come from the eastern UP, Bihar, and Jharkhand.
Jagat Malik, another farmer from Western UP’s Bamnoli, told The Sunday Guardian:
“During the second phase of the lockdown, the PM announced that there will be relaxation for even interstate movement to connect farmers with mandis, but the same provisions were not there during the first phase of the lockdown.  Even in mandis, to weigh the wheat and farm produce, we rely on labour as most of the mandis are not equipped with automatic weighing machines. So even if a farmer goes to the mandi, he will have to spend days there to complete the sale of the farm produce,” Malik said.
The situation in Haryana and Punjab is worse, as both the states are heavily reliant on migrant labour.
Apart from wheat, scores of vegetables and fruits are also lying in the farms in different states, leaving the farmers in a state of despair.