Tuesday, September 28, 2010
With his inquisitive mindset Kaleidoscope travels through some of the highest potato producing villages in
Apparently, it is a heated debate between Mr. X and his wife which compels Mr. X to consume pesticide to die eventually. Pretty straight in surface. However, underneath of this incident there is an endless story of his debt to the cold storage owner and local money lenders. Cumulated by the huge loss with potato cultivation and business for last two years.
What happens in potato business?
It’s a tricky game of investment and return. Sometimes you are paid enough. Sometimes your property is at stake. An unpredictable fluctuation can haunt you and can change you. Usually, the small scale cultivators invest in the business, as series of middlemen hinders them from profit making. When you are into the business, you are given loan from storage owners, middlemen, and local money lenders. Either you pay back with high rate of interest or you sell the “potato bond” – the paper containing information of stored potato. When you take loan, you are to exchange the “bond” to pay off or simply to sustain as the interest increases rapidly. When you exchange “bond” the buyer takes loan – again a debt remains unpaid.
A journey to nowhere!
A small scale farmer can have a big dream with potato investment. Kaleidoscope finds examples and rumours about investment in potato business and overnight profit. When, one enters in the business chain he is aided. With aids, and cheap availability of potato (highly perishable) he is easily motivated to invest even more. Eventually, even if the price raises, existing debt, family maintenance, and labour cost gives a marginal return.
What does it have to do with class consciousness?
While one might find difficulty in placing these phenomena with the concept of trade union, it is not difficult to understand the nature of exploitation through formal and informal channels. The small scale investors do not form a group. They are not organised, they do not have an organisation. The oligopoly of cold storages, coalition between existing power groups use this fragmented sector to maximise their utility.
Well, bringing class consciousness and organising their activities is a day dream. The sector is inherently fragmented in different ways including location, class, caste, religion, and political ideology.
Meeta and Rajivlochan (2006) Farmers suicide: facts and possible policy interventions, Yashada, Pune.
Patel, R. (2007). Stuffed and Starved, Portobello Books