Farmers, labourers reeling under lockdown woes: Deve Gowda

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Bengaluru, April 11 (IANS) Terming the sudden 21-day lockdown hasty and unplanned, Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) supremo and former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda on Saturday said lakhs of farmers and workers were reeling under its domino impact.

“The lockdown was a hasty decision taken without foresight and proper planning due to which lakhs of farmers, labourers and workers across the state are suffering untold hardship as their life has been disrupted as never before,” Gowda said in a letter to state Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa in Kannada.
Though Gowda assured Prime Minister Narendra Modi of his support to the central government’s war against the virus when the latter spoke to him on Wednesday, he did not mince words in saying the state government should have consulted experts, farmers, traders and other stakeholders before clamping the lockdown overnight, with buses, trains and flights suspended.
Though the central government tweaked the guidelines to allow farmers and growers to carry on their activities, including harvesting the crops and sowing for intermediary crops, the absence of transport and curbs like social distancing have hit them hard.
“With 60 per cent of the state’s 6.5-crore population dependent on the agriculture sector despite its 3-4 per cent contribution to the GDP,” Gowda said farmers and growers were facing acute financial distress due to the lockdown and the inability to sell their produce.
To mitigate the hardships of farmers producing food crops and growers of vegetables and fruits, their labour and intermediaries, Gowda said the state government should lift all curbs on their activities, including harvesting, procuring, processing and ferrying their produce to markets.
“As the lockdown, suspension of public transport service and strict enforcement of social distancing stalled even the movement of farmers and their intermediaries, growers are suffering huge losses due to vegetables and fruits perishing in tonnes in the summer heat,” Gowda told Yediyurappa in the letter.
Touted as a ‘son of the soil’ and a farmer himself, the 87-year-old veteran leader urged the prime minister and the chief minister to ensure agricultural activity did not suffer further if the lockdown is extended beyond April 14.
Accusing the Centre of ignoring the warning signals since the first Covid case was reported in Kerala on January 30, Gowda said the lockdown was decided without planning and factoring in the plight of farmers, migrant labour, daily wagers and lakhs of workers in the informal sector.
“Though the Centre had two months to prepare for the inevitable, it kept quiet till mid-March and woke up to lock down 1.3 billion people across the country without giving them time or opportunity to prepare for enduring the crisis,” recalled Gowda.
Appreciating measures to contain the spread of the virus in the southern state, especially in cities and towns and ensure social distancing was maintained to prevent community transmission so far, Gowda said the state government should lift curbs to ensure horticulture produce like fruits, vegetables and flowers were plucked in time and transported to markets for sale so that growers could benefit.
“The state government should also ensure the supply chain from farm to market is maintained by procuring the perishable goods from growers at a fair price and sold through horticulture kiosks across the state for the benefit of producers and consumers,” Gowda added.