A rupee's worth

Jyotika Sood reveals how cooperative societies believe in taking an extra rupee from farmers but not sparing 78 paise

By Jyotika Sood
Published: Saturday 08 January 2011

jyotika soodA long queue outside the Cooperative Society shop in Dhanav village in Bundi district in Rajasthan indicated it was a busy day. Friendly banter over bidhis was interspersed with agitated discussions over urea prices.

But the wait was proving long and a few in the queue tried to push their way front, sending an elderly farmer tumbling down and scattering a wad of Rs 10 notes and a few coins.

A few farmers helped him get back on feet. I tried to help collect the money scattered on the shop front. A kid who had accompanied the farmer offered him water. But the farmer was not interested. He wanted to count the shabby Rs 10 notes, make sure all his money was there. After two rounds of counting, disappointment was writ large on the elderly farmer's face. He was a rupee short.

A bit amused, I asked him the reason for his disappointment: “Kya hua baba”.

The old man was, by then, almost in tears. I had collected Rs 279, penny-by-penny, now I have just Rs 278 and I won't get the fertiliser. I was a little perplexed: the price mentioned on the bag said Rs 278.78. Surely the store could spare the elderly farmer 78 paisa. No, said the other farmers: they insist on Rs 279, sometimes Rs 280. “You cannot argue with these people in the cooperative society who give fertilizer. The moment you raise your voice, your quota is canceled.” They added the cooperative society people makes a lot of money this way.

That conversation on Re 1 took me back times when every anna and paisa was important. Perhaps the Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar talks about various benefits to farmers and subsidies are pointless.

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