Queues of farmers sit on their haunches, or atop their tractors outside the government's Krishi Upaj Mandi in Lateri, Vidisha district of Madhya Pradesh. The farmers have come with their harvest, often using rented tractors, to get it weighed and passed by the mandi officials. It takes days rather than hours before a farmer can get his harvest passed. Mulchand, 65, had come to the mandi on Monday with his gram harvest. He collapsed and died on Thursday morning still waiting his turn.
Mulchand and his family belong to Beejukhedi village in Lateri tehsil. As reported in Dainik Bhaskar, the dead farmer's son sadly reflected that if he had known his father's life would be the cost of getting their harvest weighed then they would not have come to Lateri mandi at all. He added that there are queues of farmers, just like his father, waiting for days. The waiting is made more physically demanding by the 42°-43° Celsius day-time temperature in the region. Some reports also suggest that Mulchand was sleeping on a hungry stomach for the past few days.
Farmers protest after Mulchand's sudden death
Mulchand collapsed near his tractor around 6 am on Thursday morning. His son Narmada Prasad and other farmers rushed to help him but he was already beyond help. The farmers came together and blamed the administration for inefficiency. However, Narmada Prasad sat with his father's body, inconsolable.
The police arrived after an hour and sent Mulchand's body to Sironj for postmortem. Often patients and dead bodies are transferred to Sironj due to lack of doctors in Lateri. The local administration including SDM AK Manjhi and tehsildar Shatrughan Singh Chauhan, reached the scene only to face a horde of angry farmers.
The farmers led by Surendra Raghuvanshi closed the mandi gate and sat on a blockade. They presented a list of demands to the administration which included one government job along with Rs 10 lakh compensation to Mulchand's family, and quick solution of issues faced by farmers at the Lateri mandi.
Why the delays in mandis?
As per reports, there are only eight weighing systems in operation at the Lateri mandi. For the past four days, more than 400 farmers and 100 tractors are camped out awaiting their turn. As many are small and marginal farmers, they have to take tractors on rent when they transport their harvest to the mandis.
If the mandi gives them a token for a couple of days later, then the farmers have to wait and sleep in makeshift structures on nature's mercy, while protecting their harvest. If the produce is spoiled, the farmer will get less money but due to the long wait, he has to pay a lot for the rented tractor.
As reported by Patrika, Chaturbhurj Chowrasiya, a local farmer, said that he had come thrice since May 5, but his gram crop hasn't been weighed yet. He said that he has to pay Rs 2000 per journey to the tractor-trolley guy. He added that if this administrative apathy continues, he will kill himself and leave the gram for the government.
The tehsildar of Lateri, Shatrughan Singh Chauhan, remarked that sudden death of Mulchand, though sad, is out of his control. He said that Mulchand's family would receive compensation of Rs 4 lakhs. According to him, the mandi is operating entirely within the rules and guidelines.
The mandis, state-owned or private, are plagued with problems across the country. Lack of essential services like no streamlined scheduling, less number of weighing systems, lack of electricity and cold storage availability and presence of parasitic intermediaries add to the plight of Indian farmers.