June 20, 2017 | Sanket Jain
Maruti Nirmal, 54, from Takavade village of Kolhapur district is distressed with diminishing returns in agriculture. A farmer and a full time gardener, Maruti always had a dream of educating himself, but economic and agrarian crisis made him shift jobs.
Over a period of years, he learnt the nuances of agriculture and used his knowledge to move to gardening, keeping the farmer in him alive. In order to make his ends meet, Maruti used to cut sugarcane for 4 years and then went on to do several jobs. He jointly owns 8 guntha land (0.2 acre) with his 2 brothers –land inherited from his father.
He cultivates sugarcane which doesn’t fetch him much profit as he owns ‘way too less’ land. “The field has to be leveled first which costs Rs 1000, 4 sacks of fertilizers cost me Rs 4000. Sugarcane- which requires a lot of water brings in additional cost of irrigation which is Rs 2000 and for better produce I need to protect the crop which incurs me Rs 1000. Add other charges like ploughing, sugarcane cutting and the minimum amount I spend on sugarcane is Rs 10,000,” explains Maruti.
If it rains enough, Maruti manages to get a produce of 8 tonnes and the price he gets per tonne varies from Rs 2700 to Rs 3000. “If everything works well, the maximum amount I can earn is Rs 14,000 from agriculture in a time period of 18 months. How will I educate my son and daughter with this meagre amount of money?” asks Maruti.
Working as a full-time gardener and farmer for more than 20 years now, he adds, “I do not earn more than Rs 6000 per month from gardening.” Maruti took an education loan of Rs 1,80,000 from State Bank of India at the rate of 13.5 percent which keeps varying. “With nothing in hand, I educated my son and daughter, however, the interest on loan is another major issue for me now,” says Maruti. Deepak Nirmal, Maruti’s son, says, “You get car loan at 7 percent, home loan at 9-11 percent and education loan at 13.5 percent. Just look at the irony. My engineering fee was Rs 75,000 per year and till date I haven’t received Rs 30,000 (amount for Economically Backward Classes) from the university.”
Maruti has paid Rs 2,40,000 till date, but the loan hasn’t been cleared. He managed to educate his son and daughter. His daughter managed to complete her undergraduate degree in commerce and later she got married. Maruti’s son completed his mechanical engineering from a local college of Kolhapur district.
Agriculture was never an affordable occupation for Maruti and he says, “Nobody gives loan to poor farmers and even if I get a loan, the maximum amount I will get is Rs 8000. What will I do with Rs 8000? If I take the loan, I will become a part of this vicious cycle where the interest would pile up continuously.”
He worked as a labourer in a local spinning mill at the salary of Rs 5 per day in 1984. Later he did menial jobs in others’ fields for two years. From 1997 to 2001, he worked as a gardener in several gardens of Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB). There he got Rs 20 daily and travelled to a lot of places. “The amount was way too less and I decided to work as a gardener in private residential areas where I managed to earn Rs 150 daily. I felt happy as I was getting Rs 150 and now I manage to get Rs 300, but 300 is less in today’s changing times.”
Poor farmers have to work multiple jobs to make their ends meet. While many farmers work as labourers in others’ fields, Maruti chose to undertake gardening as he likes it. Today, he works as a gardener in 4 homes in Ichalkaranji town of Kolhapur district.
“Poor farmer will always remain poor, just look at my earnings. I believe that a person should love what he does and never fail to give the best even if times are hard,” said Maruti.
Photos: Sanket Jain
This story is a part of the series where the author will interview 100 farmers from Western Maharashtra to explain agrarian crisis through their lives.