Hasari Pal Or The Sisyphus
Hasari Pal Or The Sisyphus
He was an archetypal small farmer of India. It does not matter which part of India he hails from. Nor does his caste or religion. One way to describe him would be poor. This description stands for almost all Indian small farmers. Let us call him Hasari Pal after the famous portrayal of a small farmer by Om Puri in the classic film named after 'The City of Joy' published in 1985. Like other small farmers, Hasari has difficulty in meeting his ends. Even if there is a good monsoon, he has problems with cash in hand to buy seeds, fertilizers, and other inputs. Somehow the credit access in the formal system eludes him. Due to the climate change scenario, the weather has been playing truant. Not very long ago his entire harvest got washed out due to unseasonal rain. In a good year, he manages to grow just enough food grains and after harvest, he and his lot would migrate to the city for a seasonal job and return home in time for the Kharif season.
It is during one such time when a company man Jadukar approached him. The company Jadukar represented was named as Illusions Agri-Business Corporation and they thrived on creating illusions in the countryside. However, their shareholders in the cities were very happy with the company's consistent performance in the provision of dividends. Jadukar told Hasari Pal that all his problems stand resolved as the company has genetically modified a new crop, a super-food that was much in demand in western countries and explained the economics of the new crop. Hasari was a desperate man and accepted the proposal of earmarking 2 acres out of 5 acres for growing this crop. Jadukar has assured him that the company would provide him required seeds and other inputs and train him in the matter of agronomy for the new crop as well. Hasari signed a document of some 10 pages on dot. Let us call this new crop 'Keto.' Jadukar more than made up for his promise. Not only the harvest was good, but the returns were also better than expected. Further, Hasari became some sort of a hero in his village and the neighbourhood. For he was written about in the company's web site, in the newspaper and even interviewed by the Democratic TV. It didn't matter to Hasari that Jadukar with his magical persuasion skills had sold the same dream to about 50 other Hasaris as well in that block. The company IABC rewarded him with a hefty bonus. A Magsaysay award-winning reporter tracking the story of Hasari Pal was not very delighted. He was dead against genetically modified crop and cautioned yet against the success story. Give Keto some three years before one could conclude anything, he had cautioned in his report.
In the second year, Jadukar did not have much problem in convincing nearly 1000 farmers. It was a phenomenal growth from 50 in the first year to 1000 farmers. The expected yield was more than double the company's requirement. Jadukar maintained that the law of average would come into the picture and the actual yield would not exceed more than 20% of what the company actually required. The result of the second year was not very satisfactory to Hasari Pal. Jadukar brushed off the year as not so good one and it always happens in agriculture and blamed it on the weather gods.
The third-year saw yet another phenomenal growth of farmers growing Keto. Jadukar ensured that all of the farmers had signed the legal document. One of the paragraphs stated that the document has been explained to them, understood by them and they are signing the agreement having understood the risk and liabilities of growing Keto. By this time many a few other rival companies also got interested in contract farming of Keto and jostled each other in incentivising farmers and the numbers of farmers growing Keto was estimated to be around 5000. PM came for the inaugural sowing ceremony. He drew the customary plough and sowed the first few seeds. The day was declared as the Jai Kisan Diwas. The social media rejoiced with the story of Kisan PM. Even the home minister called it a new era for the farmers and their income would double in the coming years as has been promised by the PM a few years ago. Then suddenly like in Bt cotton where the ball worm diminished the crop, a new insect wormed its way into the stem. The crop harvest was a huge loss. Jadukar did the vanishing trick. The company IABC waved the contract at the reporters and submitted the same in the court when there was a case filed by the state government. The company lawyer Shakuni argued that the agreement had clearly mentioned risks, as well as the benefit and the farmers had signed knowing fully well the agreement. The company chairman mentioned the episode as a minor blip, an act of nature, in the growth of the company in the annual shareholders meeting while declaring a 20% dividend.
Hasari Pal was back to square one. The only silver lining in his life was that his daughter scored well in the entrance examination and secured a seat for herself in the state's prestigious medical college. But her admission and the expected cost posed Hasari a big monetary challenge. A very good piece of emphatic writing by the Magsaysay winning reporter on the Hasari Pal episode created a social media flutter. A smart Alec exploited the opportunity and raised one million rupees fund in the name of Hasari Pal using crowdsourcing technique in social media. The fund never reached Hasari Pal and the last heard news was that the cyber police was investigating the fraud. The story ended no different for Hasari Pal in 2020.
The story of Hasari Pal is like the Greek myth of the King Sisyphus in which the king is condemned to push a rock up the slope and when he manages to reach the top the rock comes rolling down by its own weight and the king has to repeat the process.