Bitter Harvest

A day in the life of Ramdas Dagdu Chavhan

Sugar-cane farmer, Palasdev village, Maharashtra

Routine: Chavhan leaves for his farm early morning to water the crop and returns after sunset

It is five in the morning. Ramdas Dagdu Chavhan's house, built near a reservoir, is very cold. He has to leave for his farm in two-and-a-half hours to water the sugar-cane crop. Electricity to his village comes at 8:30 a.m. and goes off in exactly eight hours.

Chavhan owns 30 acres near Indapur, a sleepy town around 150 km from Pune. He grows sugar cane on 22 acres and wheat or corn on the remaining land. "We have been growing sugar cane for generations now. It was very lucrative during my father's time," he says. These days, sugar-cane farmers in Maharashtra are not satisfied with the price they get. A farmer was killed in police firing and another died in Chavhan's town during recent protests for higher price by sugar-cane farmers led by Raju Shetty, president of the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana. Shetty has been protesting since November 7 against Karmyogi Co-operative Sugar Factory in Indapur, which is controlled by state co-operatives minister Harshavardhan Patil.

Chavhan does not favour violent protests. "Of course, farmers are facing many problems and Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana and Raju Shetty are working for our betterment. But our family does not favour any kind of violence." His father, who is in his late 80s, is a Gandhian.

Chavhan, along with his two sons, daughter-in-law and wife, works on the farm round the year, and is also as an accountant for a few hours every week in a nearby ITI. "The cultivation of sugar cane is an 18-month cycle. It includes various processes like ploughing, tilling, sowing, weeding, pest control, watering and cutting. A farmer needs Rs 75,000 to Rs 80,000 per acre," he says.

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