Dec 07, 2012 at 11:37pm IST

Gujarat Yatra: Mixed fortunes of farmers in Palanpur, Banaskantha

Banaskantha: In North Gujarat's Palanpur area, Arun Kumar Saini, a farmer, is unaware of the FDI debate raging in Parliament. Arun has been growing potatoes for multinational Mc Cain since 2004, a partnership that has not only been profitable but has also helped him get technical expertise that has increased his yield manifold.

The government couldn't have achieved in 50 years, what Mc Cain has done for us in 10 years. An assured price, a big drop in wastage and regular soil checks from Mc Cain has helped almost 2000 farmers in 2012. Add to that the pipeline network that has allowed them to get the Narmada waters.

Just a hundred kilometres further in Banaskantha's Wav village, the story changes dramatically. Farmers in Wav village gave up their land for the construction of the Narmada bridge canals, hoping to get timely water for irrigation of their crops. However, more than three years have passed; work has not begun in large parts.

"There is no sign of water. The canals are breaking even before the water arrives," a farmer Kumar Bhai said.

Modi's track record on water politics has been questionable. Many believe he has consistently favoured the prosperous and powerful central Gujarat areas with the exclusion of the eastern tribal belt, North Gujarat and drought-prone Kutch and Saurashtra.

This has been the worst monsoon for the state in 11 years that Modi has been at the helm. With rainfall deficit at more than 80 per cent, the cotton and groundcrop in majority of Saurashtra has been destroyed. At least 30 farmers have committed suicide. The absence of sub canals, distributory channels has meant that precious water is unnecessarily going into the sea.

For Chela Bhai, rainfall deficit is no longer a concern. Once a farmer has handed over his share of the land to the government for Tata's Nano Plant, the 3 crore that fetched him has been used for a fancy SUV and more land investments.

This feeling of well being certainly means a political dividend for the Chief Minister. But agriculture in Gujarat is a mixed bag. The focus on industry has taken away the attention from farmers and their issues.