The long-felt demand of tribal farmers on Pachamalai hills for a weighbridge will become a reality soon with the State government sanctioning ₹20 lakh for executing the project.
Many say it is a 20-year-old demand. The tribals make it a point to raise the demand whenever the Collector of Tiruchi district visits the tribal settlements on the hills to understand their way of life pattern and to check whether the Government welfare measures and development schemes are reaching them or not.
It was among the main demands put forward by the tribes when Collector K. Rajamani made his maiden visit in June 2017 soon after assuming office. Besides accepting many other demands, he promised to take steps to set up the weighbridge in order to minimise the interference of middlemen in buying tapioca.
Mr. Rajamani took up the issue to the Secretary and the Director of Rural Development and impressed upon them the need to sanction a weighbridge for the tribes when he attended the Collector's conference convened by Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami recently. The demand has been accepted now.
Mr. Rajamani told The Hindu that the State Government had sanctioned ₹20 lakh for erecting weigh bridge on Pachamalai and the process of identifying the site was on. It had been decided to hand over the day-to-day operation and maintenance of the weigh bridge to the Pachamalai Farmers Producer’s Company. The company could fix a nominal charge for weighing tapioca and other produces of farmers. Agricultural Marketing would carry out periodic checks on the operation and maintenance of the weighbridge. And the Tirichi Collector would have overall control of it.
The proposed weighing machine is expected to break the syndicate of traders, who fix the prices of tapioca, to an extent. Tapioca is the major crop raised on Pachamalai, a row of low range hills part of the eastern ghats in Tiruchi district. It is estimated that farmers raise tapioca on 3,000 hectares every year, and Pachamalai accounts for more than 80% of tapioca cultivation in the district. The tribal farmers produce about 60,000 metric tonne of tapioca per year.
Tapioca cultivation is an important livelihood opportunity for tribal farmers on the hills. But the non-availability of a weighbridge and syndicate of traders have been eating into their hard-earned profit. They allege that a group of buyers have been following a dubious system of weighing tapioca with old and unchecked scales, thereby cheating the farmers.