Karnataka: Kerala ginger farmers in dire straits

Coronavirus Lockdown: Kerala’s ginger farmers in Karnataka districs in dire straits

Representative image/Pixabay Image

Scores of Kerala farmers in Kodagu and nearby border areas of Karnataka are venturing through dense forests and even crossing rivers to reach Kerala during the lockdown days.

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Even as the authorities are initiating steps to issue passes for the Malayalis stranded in other states to enter Kerala, the farmers are opting the illegal route in order to skip the mandatory quarantining. Many farmers also preferred to stay back at their farms itself as they would not be able to return until the lockdown was lifted if they cross over to Kerala.

Around 60 farmers from Kerala who tried to cross through forest areas were detained and kept in coronavirus care centres in Kerala. 

It is roughly estimated that there are over 30,000 farmers from Kerala in Kodagu, Mysuru and Shivamogga districts, mostly engaged in ginger cultivation. An association of ginger farmers alone has a membership of around 18,000. Majority of them are settled in Kerala, especially Wayanad and nearby Kannur districts. They used to frequently travel between their farms in Karnataka and their home in Kerala. Since it was the harvest season, most farmers were at their farms in Karnataka when the nationwide lockdown was clamped.

According to a forest department official, even as patrolling in forest areas was enhanced, many parts of Kerala - Karnataka border have dense forest areas on Karnataka’s side while it would be either revenue or private plantations on Kerala side. Many illegal border crossing were allegedly taking place through such areas of Kannur. There were also reports that some were even swimming across the Kabani river.

Ginger Farmers Association, general secretary, Mohan N, who was among the scores of Malayali farmers held up in Kodagu - Mysuru areas, told DH that even as there was an option of getting pass to enter Kerala many farmers were not availing it as they fear of being quarantined on reaching Kerala. Moreover, they would be able to return to their farms in Karnataka only after the lockdown was relaxed. “It is harvesting season and time to initiate next crop. Hence, many farmers are reluctant to leave their farms indefinitely as around Rs 5 lakh is invested per acre of land,” he said.

Mohan added, most of the farmers were staying in the makeshift sheds in the farms. Though the farmers were getting adequate food, many were facing an indifferent attitude from the local people as they consider Kerala as Covid-19 hotspot for the first case in India was reported from Kerala. And a spurt in  Covid-19 cases in Kasargod district made matters worse. Many Kannadiga workers were also showing reluctance to work in plantations of Malayalis, he said.