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Maharashtra farmers find a way to beat fodder mafia

Fodder camps today have become a business for politicians, their supporters and NGOs

Many fodder camps started during the drought have turned into corruption dens. But the State has been forced to continue to sponsor 1,500 camps as the delayed monsoon and unavailability of fodder continues to haunt farmers. Even as the government has announced that fodder camps will operate till August 1, a group of farmers in Sangli district has found a way around these camps.

These farmers are cultivating fodder in their fields and want the government to create a fodder bank by purchasing it from them at a Minimum Statutory Price (MSP) and providing the purchased fodder to needy farmers.

Instead of giving money to NGOs and politicians to run fodder camps, the government can encourage farmers to grow fodder by announcing an MSP and creating a fodder bank, said these farmers, adding that cultivating fodder is profitable compared to growing sugarcane or other cash crops.

MSP demand

Sampatrao Pawar, a farmer and activist who is the brain behind this idea, has cultivated fodder on his 3-acre plot of land in Balawadi village in Sangli district. “Many other farmers have followed the experiment. The government must announce MSP for the fodder and buy this fodder from us. The government can establish fodder banks in affected areas and transport this fodder to these banks. Farmers must be provided ration cards so that they can regularly buy fodder at reasonable rates from fodder banks,” Pawar said speaking to BusinessLine.

In fact Pawar was responsible for innovating the idea of a fodder camp during the 1984 drought, when he, along with farmers, agitated demanding that the government must free fodder to cattle. However, fodder camps today have become a business for politicians, their supporters and NGOs. Many complain about corruption in fodder camps during the last few months. Those who were managing the fodder camps were found extracting government grants by inflating the number of cattle.

“Also the quality of fodder provided in camps has an impact on the health of cattle and it affects milk production. Sugarcane is provided as fodder and it has a negative impact on cattle. Also, farmers have to take their cattle to camps and stay away from work. The government must support farmers to grow fodder instead of opening fodder camps during a drought,” said Pawar.

Farmers said that cultivating fodder is less expensive and also it would give a break to the cultivation of cash crops and provide a relief to the field. Excessive use of water and fertilisers is affecting the quality of land and fodder cultivation with minimal water and fertilisers would help to restore the cultivating capacity of the land.

While the government has not responded to Pawar’s appeal, he and his comrades are planning to transport their fodder to the drought affected area in Sangli district and provide it to farmers at free of cost. “ We are trying to get help to transport this fodder,” said Pawar.

 

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