Unable to sell his bumper watermelon harvest of 5 tonnes due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown, 25-year-old Jharkhand farmer offered the produce free of cost to soldiers of the Sikh Regimental Centre (SRC). Despite the kind offer, the army bought it from him at market price on June 10.
Touched by the gesture of Ranjan Kumar Mahto, a Ranchi University graduate who chose farming as a profession, the SRC officers including Commandant Brigadier M Sri Kumar visited the 25-acre farm at Kander adjoining Bokaro district, with gifts, groceries and food packets for farm labourers and took the entire 5- tonne produce in their own vehicles to SRC, located 15 km away.
“It was heartening to see drip irrigation on 25 acres of land but unfortunately, the poor farmer could not sell the produce. We saw women workers too. We came to know that he had launched the venture two years ago but suffered losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic and cyclone Yaas,” Brigadier Kumar, also President of Ramgarh Cantonment Board, told PTI.
Mahto decided to make agriculture his profession after failing to get a job. He took 25-acre land on lease at an annual rate of Rs 5,000 per acre and undertook watermelon cultivation on six acres with an investment of Rs 15 lakh. “However, there were no buyers during the lockdown.” The crop started to rot. Nobody in the village was ready to buy it even for Rs 2 per Kg. He sought help from various circles but to no avail. Finally, he decided to offer the produce to our brave soldiers for free and approached the cantonment.
In addition, Mahto has employed around 40 women labourers and also planted capsicum, brinjal and other vegetables.
Jharkhand leads in the cultivation of watermelon, tomatoes, peas, beans, cabbage, okra and cauliflower. PTI