Karnataka farmers struggle as government hikes fuel prices during monsoon season

The surge in fuel prices has raised concerns of the agrarian community in the state. They are worried about tractor operators and labour transporters increasing their tariff as well.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Jun 16, 2024 | 6:00 PM Updated Jun 16, 2024 | 6:00 PM

Karnataka Congress government Petrol Diesel Price Farmers Monsoon Kharif

In the midst of monsoon season, the Siddaramaiah-led Karnataka government’s decision to hike the sales tax on petrol and diesel has left the farming community in a state of concern Agrarians fear a surge in production costs this season.

On 15 May, the Congress government hiked the sales tax on both petroleum products.

Petrol prices have increased by ₹3 per litre, while diesel prices have risen by ₹3.5 per litre. The new tariffs have been in effect since Saturday.

After the hike in sales tax, petrol prices surpassed ₹100 per litre to settle at ₹102.86, and diesel stood at ₹88.94 per litre in Bengaluru on Sunday.

On the other hand, agricultural activities have been picking up across the state, as most of the regions have received good rains during the pre-monsoon and monsoon seasons, unlike the drought experienced last year.

The surge in fuel prices, especially diesel, has raised concerns of the agrarian community in the state.

They are worried about tractor operators and labour transporters increasing their tariffs as well.

Amidst this, the prices of fertilizers and chemicals have also risen by at least 15 percent this season.

This has further increased the financial burden and worries of the farmers, especially considering the severe drought in 2023.

In Karnataka, the state has witnessed 12 percent sowing during Kharif till 7 June, 2024. The farmers still have ample time to sow in the Kharif season.

Also Read: No BBMP bifurcation, only restructuring, says minister; activists concerned over poll delay

Impact of fuel price hike on agricultural costs

As the agriculture activities pick up for the Kharif season, the farmers are worried about increasing production cost this monsoon, citing the state government’s decision to hike fuel prices.

During the pre-monsoon and south west monsoon seasons, the state has recorded 115 mm of rainfall compared to the actual rainfall 151 mm and 35mm against the normal rainfall of 55m, respectively.

According to the Agriculture Department: “A total of 9.85 lakh hectares have been sown against a target of 82.48 lakh hectares for the Kharif season as of 7 June. Major crops being sown include Chickpea, green gram, tur dal, sugarcane, minor millets and jowar.”

Bharamagouda Lingangoudar, farmer and resident of Rona taluk in Gadag district, pointed out, “It is a big blow to farmers at the beginning of the monsoon. Most of the area in the district is rain dependent. We have to take risks by investing all our savings or taking loans, hoping for better rain and yield this season.”

“Around 70 to 80 percent of the farmers are dependent on tractors for tilling, sowing and other agriculture-related activities. Less than 20 percent of the people are still dependent on oxen for tilling and sowing because of the financial difficulties,” he said.

“The rise in fuel prices will increase the production cost as the tractor operators are expected to hike their tariff by 25-30 percent. The tractor operators charge anywhere around ₹600 to 800 per hour for tilling, sowing and harvesting,” he continued.

“They are now hinting at increasing the price by ₹50 to ₹100 per hour. This might look meager but turns out costlier for the farmers,” Bharamagouda said , adding that he has already taken loan to carry out agriculture activities this season.

Also Read: No BBMP bifurcation, only restructuring, says Minister; activists concerned over poll delay

‘Double blow to the farmers’

Bardanpura Nagraj, a farmer and resident of Mysuru, told South First “The government is making the lives of farmers worse in a bid to fulfil their guarantees. The fuel price will directly make an impact on the lives of agrarians.”

“The farmers are rapidly shifting towards mechanization in agriculture from traditional methods. The tractor operators are expected to increase their charges by at least ₹100 due to fuel price hike. Currently, the tractor operators are charging ₹1,000 to ₹1,500 per hour in the Old Mysore region. Where will we find the money?” asked Nagaraj.

Farmer Laxmiputra, a resident of Devadurga of Raichur, told South First, “The surge in fuel price will also affect the labour charges. The labour charges will further increase, making it difficult for the agrarians.”

He said: “The labour transporters will also increase their charges. It is a double blow to the farmers. With the prices of oxen skyrocketing, farmers are compelled to hire tractor operators for farming activities,” he said.

Laxmiputra added: “This is nothing but looting from the farmers. Several farmers allege that they have not received proper drought relief compensation. They are being compelled to take loans.”

It is not just in one part of the state, farmers across the state are expressing concerns over the increase in fuel prices as agricultural activities pick up.

Also Read: Renukaswamy murder case: Police custody of actor Darshan, 12 others extended by five days

Protest against state government 

Several farmer organisations have also warned of protesting against the state government this week.

Karnataka State Sugarcane Growers Association President Kurbur Shanthakumar condemned the fuel price hike.

“It is not the right move by the government. This clearly shows that the government is reeling under financial difficulties in order to fulfil their five guarantee schemes,” he told South First.

“The fuel price hike is aimed solely at increasing revenue, victimising farmers and the common people. The guarantee schemes are proving costly for the state’s progress,” he said.

“The government has not provided a single guarantee for farmers. Even the power supply is limited to just seven hours, and it is irregular in some regions. Now the tractor operators, labour transporters, fertiliser, chemical, seed and labour prices will increase,” said farmer leader Shanthakumar.

“The government is least bothered about the welfare of the farmers. We will hold a discussion with our organisation members and farmers about launching a protest against the state government,” he said, hinting that the farmers’ associations are likely to stage a protest later this week.

Karnataka Raitha Sangha’s Vijayapura Wing General Secretary Aravind Kulkarni told South First: “This government is only bothered about the guarantee schemes and is not worried about farmers and their welfare. The fuel price at the beginning of the monsoon is a big shock for us.”

He added: “This government also discontinued the financial assistance of ₹4,000 for farmers, which was being provided under PM Kisan Samaan Nidhi Yojana by the previous BJP government.”

Kulkarni also said: “They also discontinued Raitha Shakti, which was introduced by the previous BJP government in 2022, under which farmers were eligible for diesel subsidy at ₹250 per acre up to a maximum of five acres.”

He continued: “We will condemn this attitude of the government. This government has not provided a single welfare scheme or programme for farmers. We have to fight for everything from getting fair prices to ensuring proper supply of seeds, chemicals and fertilisers. When will the government work towards making farmers’ life stress-free?”

(Edited by Shauqueen Mizaj)

(South First is now on WhatsApp  and Telegram)