Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Madhya Pradesh next week has emerged as a nettlesome issue for some farmers in Sehore district's Sherpur village with local authorities allegedly forcing them to chop down unripe wheat crop to make room for a grand convention.
Madhya Pradesh is the first among four states where Modi will hard-sell the government's initiatives aimed at the farm sector in a bid to foil unrelenting attacks from the Opposition which calls the NDA administration “pro-corporate" while criticising its land acquisition and agrarian policies. “I don't know what to do now," said 24-year-old Kapil Parmar, working frantically on his three-acre field to meet the deadline. “Does the PM want me to commit suicide? A premature harvest means the crop will fetch very little money in the market and I will be further burdened with loans."
Parmar says he made a last-gasp effort by seeking the village head's intervention but she expressed her inability to help him. “Four days ago," Parmar said, “the tehsildar (revenue officer) and patwari (village accountant) asked us to sign a paper, assuring them that we'd cut the standing wheat crop by Tuesday and also dismantle a pillar holding the iron fencing, which keeps stray animals at bay."
The cultivators say their land will be used for seating and parking, as around 100,000 farmers are expected to congregate at the village for the programme on February 18. A little distance away, farmer Prem Narayan and his three siblings were busy clearing the way for the Prime Minister's rally through their field. Narayan told HT he would have to get money from a private lender to pay back a Rs 3 lakh bank loan.
However, Sehore district collector Sudam Khade denied the farmers' accusations saying no one was asked to scythe standing crops as over 300 acres to be used for the programme is largely government land while some tracts belong to private entities.