Over 200 Nizamabad farmers had filed nominations to contest the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, for not meeting their long-time demands, including an exclusive board for turmeric.

Everyone used us For Telanganas turmeric farmers nothing has changed after LS polls All images: Charan Teja
news Ground report Thursday, December 05, 2019 - 20:35

In the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Nizamabad district in Telangana made news when over 170 turmeric farmers filed their nominations from the constituency to contest in the polls. During the Assembly elections in December last year, too, several farmers, most of them cultivating turmeric, had taken to the streets, staging large-scale protests

Then and now, they have demanded that the Union government constitute a National Turmeric Board as well as set a Minimum Support Price (MSP) — the minimum price at which the crops can be purchased from the farmers.

Currently, turmeric comes under the Spices Board of India. Farmers and agricultural activists have been demanding an exclusive board for turmeric as a one-stop solution, which would ensure stable prices and also counter the exploitation of farmers by middlemen.  

It has been years since the turmeric farmers have been protesting for an MSP for their crop. In 2014, Telangana Rashtra Samithi’s (TRS) Nizamabad candidate K Kavitha assured farmers that she would fight for their demands, a promise she could not fulfill during her term. In 2019 again, it became a poll promise for both K Kavitha and BJP’s candidate Arvind Dharmapuri. Arvind, however, dubbed Kavitha ‘incapable’ and publicly assured farmers that he would resign if he failed to form a Turmeric Board within five days of his victory. Arvind ultimately won the election.

However, it has been more than five months since the high-pitched campaign and the MP took office. But the ground reality paints a rather different picture. 

After elections

Over the last 10 years, turmeric farmers have pleaded and protested for an MSP for their crop, especially in areas around Armoor and Jagtial of Nizamabad.

But on the ground, the politicians have left and the farmers have resumed their work. As yet another harvest season has ended, the farmers are now readying to cut and process it for selling.

“Everyone used our demands and scaled it up politically, but our problems have remained the same,” says Raja Reddy, one of the thousands who took to the streets earlier in February this year, demanding a turmeric board and an MSP for the crop. 

“It has been more than five months and there is no progress towards it (constituting a turmeric board),” he adds, with the exhaustion evident in his voice. 

Turmeric is grown mostly by land-owning farmers as it requires a lot of investment and labour, but promises high returns. India accounts for about 80% of the world’s turmeric production, with about 1.5 lakh hectares under cultivation. Telangana occupies almost 40% of this area coverage and 63% of the production share. 

In the last season, farmers received Rs 6,000 to Rs 7,000 per quintal based on the quality, which didn't leave them with any profit margin. According to farmers, an acre can produce around 20 to 25 quintals.

“From cutting to processing it, the turmeric harvesting involves four laborious stages. Per acre, it would cost us roughly Rs 1.50 lakh, even if we exclude the labour and the risk that, we, as the farmers, put in,” says 58-year-old Teegala Limbanna.

Because of the fluctuating market prices, the farmers have been demanding the government for the MSP. 

According to Anvesh Reddy, a representative and farmer from Turmeric Farmers Joint Action Committee as well as chairman of Telangana Kisan Congress, at least Rs 10,000 to Rs 12,000 should be provided as MSP to meet the expenses and cost of cultivation.

Government response

Sitting MP Arvind has claimed that he is working to ensure the region gets a Turmeric Board to address the issues pertaining to the cultivation and marketing of turmeric. Reports, however, suggest otherwise. Citing that the turmeric grown in Nizamabad lacks a sufficient quantity of curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric (spice), the Centre is planning to ask farmers here to increase the curcumin percentage — a chemical used as a herbal supplement as well as food colouring — in turmeric.

However, until now, there have been no concrete steps taken on the same.

Besides, last month, a task force committee of the Spices Board of India, under the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry, adopted a resolution urging the Telangana government to provide MSP at a meeting in Nizamabad. But farmers claim that their demand for a Board was not addressed at that meeting.

“A huge section of farmers close to a particular political party is now being forced to say that Minimum Support Price is enough for now. This is just to sideline the demand for the board. If they just wanted to sideline it, why did they use us during elections?” asks Raja Reddy.

Some feel that the state government is already late in passing a resolution, and announcing MSP would be further delayed. 

“Soon, farmers will start cutting and packing their crops to transport them for sale. But there is still no word on the MSP or the Board. Maybe it will take one more movement for that,” says Anvesh Reddy. 

V Prabhakar, All India Kisan Mazdoor Sangh (AIKMS) State Secretary, tells TNM, “The successive governments and rulers are the reason for the plight of the turmeric farmers. If the BJP MP, who lured the farmers and won with a huge majority, ignores our demands, he will face defeat like his predecessor.”


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