Published On : Thu, May 4th, 2017

The Tur Tragedy of Indian farmers that city people fail to understand!

  • Tur – the most news making food grain!
  • Tur prices at an all time high of Rs. 200/ per Kg.
  • Imported Tur dal does not cook well.
  • Tur dal prices crash – farmers in tears.
  • Unseasonal rains damage Tur crop.

Representational Pic

These are various headlines our newspapers flash so happen. In the last month or so, most newspapers published from Maharashtra have been carrying editorials and lead features on this humble yellow dal.

So what makes this dal so newsworthy, over all other food grains?

Some Tur facts:


Tur/ Arhar Dal – India’s binding factor

We live in a country of 29 states and 7 union territories speaking as many languages and dialects. But the tongues that speak so many different languages, do have one common factor. They ( almost) all relish eating Tur dal!!

In the Southern states of A.P., Telengana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala they make Sambhar and Rassam from Tur dal. It is their daily staple that they eat with rice, for meals, and idli and dosas, for ‘tiffin’.

The famous Gujarathi ‘teekha- meetha’ dal is made from tur dal as is the Marathi ‘amti’.

Bengalis, Oriya and Assamese favour it too – with their staple rice. When we say ‘dal tadka’ or ‘dal fry’ it is Tur dal we speak on any dhaba/ eatery of India.

So you get the picture? It is the maximum consumed and therefore most grown dal of the country.

In India, Arhar is mostly grown in the states of U.P, M.P, Maharashtra, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, West Bengal, Assam, Orissa, Rajasthan, H.P., Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, etc

Govt (s) get more worried when Tur prices ride up

Thus since this dal is the staple from which most Indians get their protein, when prices go up, middle class India is most disturbed. Their monthly groceries budget gets disturbed and there is huge hue and cry.

Naturally politicians get into a dizzy playing the blame game and
react by planning for massive and ‘unplanned’ imports – from Africa mainly. (Though many nations world over grow it and there are many import options other than Africa too).

They also exhort Indian farmers to grow more dal – specially tur dal.

When the cycle turns and rates crash, everyone is happy but for the farmer!

As a result of the exports – planned last year but executed this year! – and the good harvest since weather conditions were comparatively favourable and farmers HAD sown more of it, there was a glut in the market this year.

With the basic fundamental of Supply and Demand, as soon as supply goes up, demand goes down and rates crash.

Though so many farmers across India grow Tur, as ‘voters’ they do not matter as much as Urban middle class Indians since farmers are a fragmented lot and seldom speak in one voice. Different states have different agricultural policies and the besieged farmer often does not know who to blame.

The Maharashtra situation for 2017

A farmer of Amraoti District took his harvested Tur to the Agriculture Produce marketing Committee (APMC) on 2nd Feb this year.

He was asked to leave his ‘sacks’ of dal in the market yard – out in the open – and come back later for weighing and counting of his ‘maal’.

This was finally done 27 days later in March.

He finally received payment for it after another month in April.

This state of affairs when laws governing APMC say farmers should receive payment within 2 hours of delivery of his produce!

Opined the farmer : ” As long as my dal was lying in the open, unweighted and uncounted, I could not sleep!

What if it got stolen? Attacked and damaged by rodents and other creatures?

What if it rained and the dal got wet? (Farmers are not paid for wet produce at all!)

It is anxieties such as these that make 50% farmers not wait for govenment to make purchase but sell their dal directly to traders/ dal mill owners ( often same people).

They come to the farm to weigh and collect the dal and pay immediately.

Ony difference is that if Govt. pays a MSP of Rs. 5050 per quintal, the Trader this year slipped to Rs. 3200/ per quintal only. (Mind you, this lentil that he has obtained for Rs. 32/ per Kg, after splitting,polishing and packing will be sold to the customer at minumum Rs. 60 to Rs.70 per Kg!)

Customer will still be happy that what he paid Rs. 200/ for two years ago, is available at Rs. 70 now.

Mill owner will be happy that he made almost 100% profit.

Only the farmer will be unhappy because, as usual, he made no money out of a crop he sowed, nourished, grew, harvested and brought into the market offering it as life’s work – his ‘khoon pasine ki kamai’.

The Maharashtra Govt. after making many promises and giving assurances is still dragging its feet on buying and making payments immediately. Probably because they have a cash crunch!

They are blaming farmers instead – few days ago, threats were issued that ‘farmers who were found selling more Tur than they could have possibly grown will be severely punished!’

What is the reason for this belligerence?

A farmer has to make 7 – 12 of his crop every year. ( 7 No. form for recording how much land he has under agriculture and 12 for details of what crops he sowed.)

If average yield was 7000 quintals per acre and he has 3 acres, he should not sell more than 21,000 quintals. If he is selling over 25,000 quintals there has to be some ‘ghotala’. He is assumed to be a merchant farmer who has purchased from other farmers and is profiteering at their cost!

But when traders and mill owners profiteer govt. has no issues since they are the ones giving ‘donations’ when it is election time!!

“It is good isn’t it that so many Opposition leaders are fighting on your behalf and all these ‘dal andolans’ are going on?” NT asked a farmer.

“The same people when they were in power behaved the same way as this government – there is no difference.” Replies the farmer.

“It is not governments who exploit us as much as the ‘System’ and the official machinery – governments come and go, System remains the same!