If the mood of farmers in Uttar Pradesh's Agra is anything to go by, potato farmer protests could cost the BJP dearly in recent by-elections. Fuming potato farmers in Uttar Pradesh's Agra-Hathras belt is making the BJP party nervous ahead of the second phase of the elections.
Tuber cultivators dominate four districts (Agra, Hathras, Farrukhabad and Aligarh) in Uttar Pradesh, all of which go to polls on 18 April.
Cultivators in the district are reeling under the impact of year-on-year bumper produce and falling market prices. They are mistrustful of last-minute doles and band-aid solutions announced on a spree. And they squarely blame the policies of the ruling party in Centre and state for multiplying their woes in a region where agricultural infrastructure and environmental impediments are one of the worst in the state.
Vijay Bahadur Singh of Gangroya Village says he is sustaining massive losses for the past three years. Because he is fairly well-to-do, he has managed to stay away from falling into debt, but all his savings are used up. For funding this year's produce, he finally had to mortgage a portion of his land.
"My land is so fertile I can produce three to four crops in a year. But there are no takers for the produce. I spend more than Rs 600 to 700 per 100 kgs, those with less fertile land have to put in much more. But the market price remains stuck at Rs 500 per 100 kgs. This cycle never breaks," Singh says. The condition of landless farmers, or those who have negligent land holdings, is even worse.