2018 was marred by multiple farmer protests. The agrarian crisis was and is still upon us. Over 15,000 farmers have taken their lives in the past decade.
It is however, often difficult for urban dwellers to understand the complexity of the situation. This births ignorance and lack of sensitivity, that underplays the agrarian crisis.
In an attempt to highlight the severity of the issue, a short film by Yashowardhan Mishra- ‘Mandi’, set in rural Maharashtra, does a great job.
‘Two Morsels Of Peace, Is All We Pray For’
It was a receipt with a weird jumbled-up calculation that pushed director Yashowardhan Mishra into making ‘Mandi’. The receipt in question calculated farm produce in a manner which made the farmer pay for selling his own crop.
The opening shot of the short movie shows a woman seeing her husband off, who is on his way to sell his onion produce at the market. She hands him a Rs 100 note and reminds him that their bullock has to be decorated for Pola festival, just two days away.
The farmer is accompanied by his young son who is adamant on going with him to the city market, where he hopes his father would buy him his favourite toy.
The farmer is in for a rude shock when his produce, months toil, is up for sale for a very paltry sum.
The horror amplifies when the trader deducts money for labour and transport from his payment. The final calculation shows that the farmer himself would now have to pay instead of receiving any payment.
“Around the year, we sweat, we toil
To see the pearls of labour grow on our soils
We take them to markets, not looking for money
Two morsels of peace, is all we pray for”
The Marathi song (translated to English) which the farmer’s wife can be heard singing in the beginning of the movie, encompasses the struggle of our farmers.
“It Is An Epidemic, Which Is Nothing But Criminal”
In an interview with The Logical Indian, director Yashowardhan Mishra said that the inspiration behind Mandi was the image of an actual bill presented to a farmer from Lasalgaon in Maharashtra who went to sell his produce at the Mandi.
“It was such an unbelievable and bizarre story that it shook me to the core. Subsequently, in our primary research, we came across more such bills from different parts of the country – from Marathwada to Mandsaur to Delhi. I realised that this is an epidemic that our farmers are facing across the country and it is nothing but criminal. This is when I decided that I had to tell this Kafkaesque story through the cinematic form so that it can reach a wider audience and spark a conversation,” said Mishra.
He further says that there is much emphasis on creating entrepreneurs in India, ironically, our original entrepreneur- the farmer are dying.
Urban India has developed insensitivity towards the issues faced by farmers, and it is important to build empathy and understanding of the crisis that our farmers face and eventually push everyone to find solution to their problems, says Mishra.
Extensive research went behind making the film. It involved speaking farmers at various Mandis.
“What I realised in my research was that the Mandi is an extremely volatile market with price swings within a couple of hours. The poor farmer holds the weakest cards in the game. He has no bargaining powers, nor does he manage to secure the Minimum Support Price for his produce because it just doesn’t exist! The entire ecosystem is working against him. This results in him being looted by middlemen, money lenders and others in the supply chain,” he says.
Mishra expresses gratitude for his crew which was politically aware, making his job of bringing the poignant story out, easier.
“I cast some great actors from the Marathi film industry like Kailash Waghmare and Shrikant Yadav. What was heartening to see was that these actors were so aware of the politics of the agrarian crisis, which led to the kind of authenticity they lend to their characters.”
The Logical Indian Take
By no means should this story be taken as an exaggeration, for it depicts the reality of the times we live. In May 2018, a receipt showed that a farmer received just Rs 1 for 74 Quintal worth of Tomato produce. Not very different from what is shown in the short film.
Farmer sells tomatos in Navi Mumbai mandiQuantity: 74 qtRate: ₹33 per qtTotal receipt: ₹2,442DeductionsTransport:…
We hear of farmer suicides almost every other day. These deaths, unfortunately, have been reduced to statistics. The number keeps growing every passing year, with no resolution in hindsight.