India has many kinds of farmers, and adivasi farmers are very much part of the Indian agrarian system, even though some of them follow different cultivating patterns and have different needs. One of the major issues to have emerged from the kisan march is the need to move away from such homogenising of the agrarian society in the country.
"The way farming is looked at needs to change. Farmers in India are not a monolith. Some of them live in forests, and they have very different needs. The government policies cannot treat all cultivators in the same way,” said Meera Sanghamitra, who is a member of the National Alliance for People’s Movements.
The Srikakulam district in Andhra Pradesh has around 500 villages that are home to adivasis. E Apparao, who hails from the Kotturu mandal, spoke about why he has come all the way to Delhi.
Apparao once used to grow wild vegetables and indigenous crops, and now grows paddy, cashew nut, and cotton. He said that no one at the market gives a fair price for the indigenous varieties. He added that even the crops he grows now do not fetch him a fair price at the market.
“Our adivasi community is especially disadvantaged, as the middlemen discriminate against us. We are shortchanged to the extent of 60-70 percent. Even the ITDA (Integrated Tribal Development Agency) doesn’t come to our help in times of distress. Bank loans also come at a high interest rate, and we don’t come to know if there are loans or crop insurances available for our communities. We are always kept in the dark,” says Apparao.
However, the larger issue that the adivasi communities in the district face is to with around 288 villages that are not considered as scheduled areas. Communities which are not part of scheduled tribes cannot avail of reservations in jobs, schools or universities, and are denied the benefits of certain government schemes. Villages which are not listed as scheduled areas are often not allocated resources for the development of roads, schools or other public amenities.
“We have been fighting for the inclusion of villages under the scheduled areas for more than ten years now. We had come here in 2009, with Medha Patkar fighting for this cause. We are still fighting,” says Apparao.
Another story of the adivasi struggle comes from Maharashtra, from the district of Nandurbar, where 33 villages were submerged as part of the Sardar Sarovar dam.
"Today, we face problems because we have been displaced. We have been given compensation, but we are still struggling. We have not been given fertile land as compensation. We used to grow local crops like bhanti and bhatthi, which don't fetch any price. We are forced to grow crops like corn,” says Latika, a tribal farmer from the district.
At times, when they do not fetch fair prices for the crops that they grow, they are forced to work on sugarcane plantations elsewhere in the region. Many adivasi farmers have run into debt over the years because of the poor yield from the land they have been rehabilitated to.
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Updated Date: Dec 02, 2018 17:07 PM