Hundreds of farmers of Mokama and Baraiya, taal or low-lying areas in Patna district where only one crop grows in a year, have only one thing on their mind: how to buy seeds for sowing. As they spend most of their time queuing up at banks, with many of them returning empty-handed, time is fast running out for farmers. Since most of the over 1,500 acre of taal areas remain submerged during most part of the year, farmers can only grow rabi crops – wheat, maize, lentil and gram. And they have only until the end of this month to buy seeds and start sowing.
With ATMs in several rural belts not functional, farmers have been complaining about the timing of the decision. SK Singh, a farmer from Maranchi village in Mokama block of Patna district, said, “This is my third consecutive day in the bank queue. The bank runs out of cash before my turn comes. I have to pay at least 10 labourers working in my field. Spare a thought for daily wagers who have little grain and other essentials. We know banks are doing a good job but why are ATMs in rural areas not opening?”
Maranchi has an IDBI branch. Its ATM has not functioned since the note ban. There is a PNB branch nearby. Villagers usually travel to Barh, 35 km away, or to Begusarai, 60 km away, to withdraw money. Maranchi, Phulpur and Jalalpur villages of Mokama have over 1,000 medium and small farmers. “Seed is like god for us. We have ploughed our fields but only 30 per cent of the farmers could buy seeds. We can afford to go without food for a day but need to buy sseds of peas, lentil, gram, wheat and maize.”
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Jagdish Prasad, a farmer in Baraiya village, pointed to a vast stretch of ploughed land and said, “We need seeds worth at least Rs 4,000-Rs 5,000. How can we think of reaping when there is no sowing?” Share-croppers say the landowners, whose land they till for a fixed amount, wouldn’t allow them to work till they paid Rs 9,000 for a bigha of land. “Most land owners are not flexible. They will let their field go barren if we do not pay them their advance. What’s worse, many of them insist that we pay in cash,” said Surendra Singh, a share-cropper who says at least 50 per cent of farmers till others’ land.