In Rajkot village, residents lose work, farmers struggle for agriculture inputs

Gopal B Kateshiya

Vinubhai Kamboya and his son on their farm (Photo: Gopal Kateshiya)

Amrabhai Makwana enquires prices of almost all vegetables available at a grocery-cum-provision store at Ramaliya village, around 40 km away from Rajkot city.

Finally, he buys 500 gram brinjal, which was the cheapest among them.

Only six days have passed since the 21-day lockdown was imposed in the wake coronavirus outbreak, but Amrabhai says that he is running out of money.

He owns one acre of agricultural land, but being a diabetic patient, he has not gone to work for some time. “Therefore, the land remained fallow this year,” he says.

“Vegetable prices have remained stable despite the lockdown. That is a relief. But my pocket is getting thinner by the day. Both my sons—Paresh (24) and Haresh (22) — are construction labourers earning Rs 250 per day. But they have not got any work for almost a week now. It is getting difficult to keep feeding six people in the family,” Amrabhai says.

Amrabhai Makwana after buying vegetables from Suresh Goswami's shop in Ramaliya village (Photo: Gopal Kateshiya)

Amrabhai is one among the many farmers for whom life has come to a halt following the nationwide lockdown.

Vinu Kamboya (40), who owns 15 bigha land along with his brother Uka, has been facing difficulties to get electric motor-pump in his farm-well repaired.

“The pump developed fault three days ago. I need to irrigate my fenugreek crop in a couple of days else it will wilt under a harsh sun. I have been requesting motor-rewinding technicians in Sardhar to repair my pump. But no one is opening their workshops, fearing police action,” says Kamboya who lives in a cottage on the farm with his father, wife and two children.

Another farmer, Babu Kidiya (55) and his wife Champa were busy doing inter-culturing in their pearl millet crop with the help of their pair of bullocks on Friday. “I am aware there are orders of lockdown, but I suppose one is free to work on farm, isn’t it?” asks Champa who has no formal education.

Babu says the government must have taken the right decision to contain spread of the disease but adds it is affecting their farming. “I need to spray herbicide in this crop. I went to Sardhar to purchase it but the shops were closed,” he says.

Ajay Goswami and his father Suresh at their grocery-cum-provision store in Ramaliya village (Photo: Gopal Kateshiya)

Suresh Goswami, a provision store owner, says that the lockdown has taken a toll on his business too.

“Vegetables are cheaper at Rajkot agriculture produce market yard but I stopped going there, fearing that police may beat me. If police ask me, what do I have to prove that I am a provision store owner? Therefore, I have been purchasing vegetables from Sardhar where prices are high,” said Goswami.

His wife and younger son, who were working in canteen at a private university near Rajkot city, have also returned home.

Suresh’s son Ajay alleges that while he was leaving for Sardhar to purchase stock for his father’s shop on Saturday, policemen mistook him as a young man hanging around and beat him up.

The district had recorded eight confirmed cases coronavirus infection till Friday and police were cracking down on those violating the prohibitory orders during the lockdown.

Village sarpanch Ramji Makwana agreed police patrolling has intensified since the lockdown began. “Police visit our village twice a day. But some people want to play the fear factor and manipulate the situation to their advantage,” the sarpanch said, adding he had been authorised by police to issue identity letters to provision store-owners of the village. “We will start doing this soon,” said Makwana, adding around 100 residents of Ramaliya have lost job or work due to the lockdown

Babu Kidiya and his wife Champa do interculturing in their pearl millet crop in Ramaliya village. (Photo: Gopal Kateshiya)

Two families have managed to return from Surat to their homes in Ramaliya. Pravin Kodala, his cousin Shailesh and six other members managed to reach Ramalia in two cars on March 24. They have been doing centring job work in Surat. “Due to lockdown, construction activity has come to a halt in Surat. Therefore, we thought it proper to come to our village,” says Pravin.

Pravin Kodala and others have been put under home-quarantine.

The sarpanch says situation is normal in the village. “There hasn’t been any case of any major illness in the village in the past week. A few people are returning to the village from cities. There haven’t been any protests against it,” the sarpanch says.

Spotting a team of paramedics going to a home where people from Rajkot city had returned, a young man grumbled: “They are coming from big cities, where virus has spread, and slipping in the village in the dead of night. I hope they are not carrying the virus. If infections spread here, who will care for us villagers?”