Why are the thousands of granaries in Kerala lying empty? An explosive crisis has now developed in Kuttanad, one of the two major rice growing areas of Kerala (the other is Palakkad). I explained some of the reasons for this in my post, Un-ploughed lies my land.
The immediate problem is that thousands of hectares of paddy in Kuttanad cannot be harvested in time because of shortage of labor and lack of machines. The heavy summer rains have added to the predicament.
Kerala has been facing difficulty regarding rice, its staple food, for some time now. There is an acute shortage and the prices keep rising. Imports of paddy from states like Andhra Pradesh are tapering off due to various reasons.
Local farmers who valiantly try to cultivate either their own or leased land, are in a miserable situation. Reportedly, this season at least two farmers of Kuttanad have committed suicide because they had invested heavily but could not harvest the crop in time.
Why doesn’t Kerala have essential machinery for successful agriculture? The unions (these are the people who fought against mechanization of coir industry and use of computers in offices!) wouldn’t allow them claiming that they would render agricultural labor jobless. Of course, resourceful farmers could obtain permission to use tractors and harvesting machines by properly petitioning the unions!
The ‘loss of jobs’ argument must be a joke today. According to reports, unions claimed there were 15,000 agricultural workers in the area, but only 300 have so far registered in the Collector’s list of persons available for harvesting.
Now frantic efforts are on to get about 250 harvesting machines! Most Keralites would happily drive a tractor but wouldn’t like to get their feet dirtied in the slime of the paddy fields. So they look elsewhere for jobs.
In the 1950s Lambert Mascarenhas published a lovely novel about
Even as I write this, unharvested paddy is sprouting to waste in the Kuttanad fields.
The photo (copyright reserved) of the granary (ara)in our tharavad is by me. Click on it for larger view.