Tractor Trouble for Western UP’s Farmers

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“There will not be any traffic in Delhi, there will be only tractors standing on the roads of the capital. Old tractors will bring life to a standstill”, warned Rakesh Tikait, national spokesperson of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) reacting to National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) ban on tractors that are more than 10-years old.

The aggressive remark came after thousands of tractor-driving farmers protested in Western Uttar Pradesh and gheraoed offices of district magistrates at various places.

The BKU leader accused the BJP government of anti-farmer, pro-corporate and condemned the government for not providing any fund to help the farmers.

Speaking to the Hind Kisan, the farmer leader pleaded that the NGT should make exception towards farming equipments, otherwise the ban will directly hurt the farmers of the country and force thousands of tractors, diesel operated fodder cutters etc. out of operation. He added that this would bring havoc on already distressed farming community of the country and the burden of procuring new equipment will cripple farmers.

  • Farmers gather in Ghaziabad protesting ban on tractors
  • Photo:Hind Kisan

NGT’s Deposition

In 2015, in a bid to check pollution in Delhi, the NGT imposed a ban on the use of diesel vehicles those are more than a decade year old. The tribunal ordered that after March 31, 2017, all such diesel vehicles and the petrol vehicles those are more than 15-years old cannot operate in the Delhi-NCR.

The green tribunal, on September 14, 2017, quashed Central government’s plea to modify its order saying that one diesel vehicle causes pollution equivalent to the 24 petrol vehicles and 40 CNG vehicles.

The decision has resulted in discontent among farmers because they are now unable to drive their old tractors, mini-trucks, etc. into Delhi-NCR. It makes their old vehicles virtually useless as they cannot carry agrarian produces and sell in Delhi. They are left with no option other than selling their crops to middlemen.

  • Farmers from 192 villages meet Ghaziabad District Magistrate
  • Photo:Hind Kisan

What perturbs farmers?

Opposing the NGT’s ban, framers from 192 villages gathered in Ghaziabad on Tuesday and thousands of them drove their tractors to the district magistrate’s offices. The farmers protested to assert their demand for exception to tractors from the NGT’s order and asked the government to provide compensation to them for abandoning their decade-old tractors.

The BKU accuses that the UP Transport Department is mulling to enforce the NGT ban in the districts of Noida, Ghaziabad, Meerut, Baghpat, Bulandshahar, Muzzaffarnagar, Shamli and Hapur. Farmers in these districts highly rely on old tractors to transport their products to Delhi-NCR markets.

Only in Ghaziabad, according to a Times of India report, more than 13,000 tractors are registered under agricultural category of which around 70 percent are more than 10-years old. That means around 9100 tractors will become obsolete and the farmers who own those will have to buy new ones. Buying a new tractor makes a huge hole in the pockets of farmers as they have to pay a large amount as down payment. Paying installments is another burden.

“One tractor costs, on an average, Rs. 7 lakh” said Tikait, “so for 9100 tractors farmers of Ghaziabad will have to invest Rs 637 crore over a period.”

The ban would also hamper the marginal farmers who buy old tractors on nominal prices. Once the ban is enforced any change in registration would not be possible forcing farmers to keep the old tractor as an antique at their home.

Amid farmers ongoing crisis, it will interesting to see how NGT takes the farmers issue and keep UP’s mechanisation of agriculture intact. In the meanwhile farmers are a worried and angry lot.

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