Farmer crisis: A change in indifference needed

The new monarchs are practicing Yoga while the city burns.

Five farmers were killed in a police firing during a protest on Tuesday in Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh. When the reporters approached the Union Agricultural Minister Radha Mohan Singh the next day for his reactions on the protests and killing of farmers, he was at a Yoga camp doing Yoga with Baba Ramdev. When questioned, the Minister’s answer was ‘practice Yoga’. The farmer suicides and agitations happening in different states for weeks doesn’t seem to have bothered the Delhi Durbar. The Prime Minister has decided to provide interest subsidies on short term crop loans. However, measures are yet to be taken to analyse the basic issues of the farmers and to take suitable decisions in response to the demands they raise. Instead, attempts are made to sideline the issue by blaming the protest to be stirred up by the opposition and creating splits between the farmers. As of May end, 181 farmers lost their lives in Maharashtra alone. The drop in the crop prices and the inability to repay the loans have made their lives miserable. Just like the erstwhile government, Modi government too is delaying action on the M S Swaminathan report. The authorities started to look into the issue only after the farmers resorted to suicide or took to the streets following severe crisis. While the state government expressed willingness to write off the farmer loans, the Centre said that it was the responsibility of the farmers to repay. This might be deeming the issue as one affecting only the state government. That might be the reason why the Agricultural Minister went for a Yoga practice.

The fact is that the roots of farmer crisis lie deeply related to Centre’s policies than that of the states. With the country’s economy turning to neo-liberal direction, agricultural and rural sectors were neglected. Reports say that over 20, 000 farmers committed suicide in Madhya Pradesh alone in the last 16 years. The actual figure might be more than that. About three lakh farmers might have turned to suicide during the last 21 years. During the year 2016-17, 1982 farmers and agricultural workers ended their lives in Madhya Pradesh alone. Things are no different in other states like Telangana, Andra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Chhattisgarh. More than half of the total farmer suicides took place in three states, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh, where the BJP is in power. It seems like the suicides have been handled like mere rough estimates. If it was known that a person ends his life at the peak of misery, even a suicide could have made clear the gravity of the matter. In a state of total despair, waving off loans is surely necessary to bring relief. But not attempting to save farming while it was running into loses, is an unlawful act of neglect. It’s the double standards that being displayed even in writing off loans. Reserve Bank Governor Urjith Patel warns that writing off farmer loans would increase fiscal slippage. So agrees the World Bank and similar institutions. At the same time, corporate loans are much bigger than the farmer loans. While the farmer loans come up to Rs 12.6 lakh crore, the corporate loans amount to Rs 28 lakh crore. When the corporate loans were being waved off, nobody is heard raising the issue of fiscal slippages. The problem is not just following the wrong approaches. The senseless moves affect the poor including the farmers, the most. The government might not have even thought about the impact of regressive moves like the note-ban and ban on sale of cattle for slaughter, on the farmers.

Its ingratitude that’s being showed towards farmers. The politicians forget the promises they make while seeking votes. When the corporate giants are being smoothly exempted from loans and taxes, how long will the farmers, standing at the deadend of life, protest in the streets? Beyond all that, how many more suicides will be needed to find solutions to their basic issues?

RECOMMENDED STORIES