BURDENS OF SILK FARMERS: Talagavadi village, Mandya District

Rajendra Prasad

These are the reflections of two ordinary farmers (Hanume Gowda and Swami) of Malavalli in Mandya District in the Gram Panchayat during the lockdown.

The sudden ‘Lock down’ has created a number of problems in the villages. There have been deficiency in commodities; transport is in disarray, a downfall in the market for agricultural produce, dairy business, silk and fishing. Agriculture and their subsidiary businesses have suffered extreme losses.

Deficiency in consignments:There are provision stores in Talagavadi village. It has enough commodities for the time being; but the prices are rising by the day which may lead to dearth of stock. Ready-made goods that have to come from cities, household articles, condiments, etc. are becoming expensive. Majority of washing soaps come from Tamil Nadu. As the traffic between states have become very less, and as factories are presently closed, they have not been arriving. Likewise, lentils, cereals, vegetables, ready-made food products, etc. are becoming scarce and expensive as demands are increasing.

The traders that are selling chicken, fish and meat are also facing acute loss due to virus panic. They have buried live chickens in the farms. Some of them have sold them at random prices. The fish in the rivers have been let as they are. Rumours have ruined the supply and markets.

Dairy: Majority of the farmers’ subsidiary business have been Dairy. Due to ‘Lock Down’ the ready-made foods (variety of fodder-feeds) are not available. There are no stores and high prices are a pain. When the cattle are fed only by hay/grass, the proportion of milk produced becomes less. It is very difficult to go out of town to procure grass. While these are some of the problems, the Milk Producers Co-operative Societies are hesitant to buy milk. The reason is that some dairies and depots are going through loss as there are no takers. In Talagavadi village, there are local milk producers’ association and cattle sales centres.

Silk: Silk producers are also in plenty in the district. Just at the time of the “Lock Down’, a large amount of processed and in-process silk cocoons were available. Sometime ago, this silk manufacture had also closed. But, recently due to the government’s initiative, they have been opened. The prices have now declined. From Rs.400/- per kilogram it has now come down to Rs.150-200. The factories that were weaving silk have also stopped as there is no turnover. The growers have panicked. Silk producers have faced total loss. Due to the virus pandemic business people are not prepared for any transactions. There is a small market in Malavalli; but, it is the Kollegal silk-cocoon market that is bigger.

Farming and vegetables: The farming and vegetable growers are very badly hit. The ‘Lock Down’ was announced just as they were about to harvest these vegetables. There are no local markets and even if some marketing is available, there is no transport. When they finally they try to transport the vegetables, there is no price for them. Further, there are no workers available for harvesting. As a result, a lot of fruits and vegetables are rotting in the farms. Families that are totally dependent on these are at a loss.

Seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, etc. are not presently available. They have to wait until the ‘Lock Down’ is lifted. Time that could have been spent working on the fields is being wasted. Similarly even flower growers are at a loss as they are unable to sell. Here, marigold and sevantige are grown in abundance.

Though the paddy, millet and sugarcane have not been destroyed, the people who grow them are small-time growers. They were dependent on subsidiary occupations on a daily basis. Now they have to get along with empty pockets!

Agricultural labourers who do not own personal agricultural land and who were doing daily labour work in cities, do not have any income nor do they have any savings.There have been a number of discussions about the city’s daily wage workers. As they are unable to migrate and quite a few have stayed back in their own villages. Most of them have been able to get government rations. Those who had migrated to the cities have now come back. Presently there are no serious situations. But, they are all staring at a blank future.

Circulation of money: Money that common people were able to get is also in a bottleneck because of the ‘Lock Down’. People are unable to spend even small amounts of money. As the lockdown was suddenly imposed, a number of lower middle class people have become empty handed. People are not even able to get any loans and advance salaries. Talagavadi village has a Canara Bank Branch. It has been working even in the ‘Lock Down’ days. Those who have savings account here are able to do some transactions. Quite a few of them have not received their salaries and payments. Dynamic and practical self-help groups have also gotten into trouble.

The above article was written in Kannada by a village resident.Translation from Kannada to English was done by Ms. Srijaya Char.