Wednesday, July 31, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Selling tractors to make both ends meet
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Jatana Kalan (Mansa), July 30
Even as moneylenders have hiked the rate of interest on loans, farmers have started devising ways to generate cash to make both ends meet.

Tractor bazaars are being set up following huge losses. “We are left with no option but to sell vegetables, tractors and milk and take loans from moneylenders at exorbitant interest to make arrangements for diesel, pesticides and fertiliser for the crops which have started to dry due to an acute shortage of water,” Sarup Singh, a farmer of this district, said.

Earlier the rate of interest on loans was 1.5 per cent per annum. However, following drought-like conditions, it has gone up to 2-3 per cent. “When the drought-like conditions worsened, the interest went up to 5 per cent,” said Ruldu Singh, owner of 29 acres.

He said he had earned about Rs 50,000 by selling his new tractor in the tractor bazaar for Rs 1.25 lakh and purchasing an old one for Rs 75,000.

Mithu Singh said he had been exchanging vegetables for other items.

The crops are wilting despite the fact that the Bhakra main line canal passes through this area. The canal water supply is inadequate and groundwater is unfit for irrigation. Even fodder has started to dry. Some farmers have been caught stealing canal water. So far, about 23 cases of water theft have been registered against them in this district.

Didar Singh (name changed), a small farmer, along with his brother have taken up the job of security guards in localities near Sardulgarh and have shifted their wards from private schools to government-run schools. Manvir Singh (name changed), who owns 18 acres, has started selling milk.

Big landowners with 75 to 100 acres are also finding difficulty in taking loans for purchasing diesel. Balwant Singh (name changed), owner of 75 acres, could not irrigate his crops for three days as he could not arrange diesel to run tubewell in the absence of money.

Though figures released by the Agriculture Department have revealed that paddy in about 138 hectares had been ploughed in this district and there was no report of ploughing of cotton crop, a visit to various villages showed that both paddy and cotton had been ploughed in hundreds of acres.

Mr Alok Shekhar, Deputy Commissioner, said he had instructed Agriculture Department officials and SDMs to monitor the situation. He had also been touring various villages.

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