Suicide rate of potato farmers takes hike in Bengal
Since a long time west Bengal is witnessing suicide of potato farmers in the state. Initially it was due to the ban on supply of potatoes to the neighboring states by the Trinamool congress in the year 2013 when all this started. The ban decision defied financial logic and had contributed to the low prices leading to suicides. Recently it was noted a sharp decline in the price of potatoes due to heavy rain that resulted bumper crop this year coupled with insufficient infrastructure to provide farmers a storage area for their yield. Failing to recover money after the bumper harvest and suffered huge losses farmers of state had no option to live that lead to a hike in rate of farmer suicide. Many farmers had taken huge loans and even have mortgaged their property for the harvest but did not gain anything.
Various factors played an important role behind the suicide cases of farmers which included heavy debts, lack of storage facilities and demonetisation has been another factor leading to farmer’s distress. According to reports, some farmers expressed their concerns saying, “No middleman is coming to us to buy our harvest. We have no option left except feeding these to our cows and buffaloes. We don’t even have the facility to transport the harvest to a cold storage.” As per the farmers of Bengal, the minimum cost to produce one sack of potato that is around 50 kilograms is Rs.300 whereas the price they are getting from the market at this moment is around Rs.100-Rs.150 per sack as against Rs.450 last year. They further add that the recurring cost of cultivation has been rising every year making the sustenance of cultivation more difficult. Demonetisation has affected the potato farming as middlemen want to buy the produce on credit due to lack of cash and farmers are not ready to take such risks.
Keeping the distress of the potato farmers in mind and paying heed to this rising problem West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced that the state government will procure 28,000 tonnes directly from farmers for its mid-day meal and ICDS schemes. The government has also fixed the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for the same at Rs 4.60 per kg, as against the current field price of Rs 2.5 – 3 per kg.
Despite of such announcements the suicide rate is still on hike because the farmers claim that the government’s promise to purchase the harvest is not fulfilled leading to further situation of restlessness
The major question arises here is that is the politics not considering such unprivileged strata of society? Are these poor farmers to be put at stake due to the political decisions taken in the interest of leaders? The farmers want to sell their harvest not only in the neighbouring states of Bengal but also neighbouring countries like Srilanka, as Bengal is the second largest producer of potatoes. It is high time now and the government should take some major decision to address the issue and stop the farmer’s suicide in the state.