Farmers are treated like orphans
Published on Monday, 12 June 2017 17:12
Farmers’ agitation is going great guns at present. But is this development a sudden outburst? The answer to this question is that the political system of this country has always treated the farmers as orphans. It is so ironic that on the one hand we call the farmers Annadata, in Maharashtra they are also called Baliraja, and on the other, their condition is so pathetic that many of them choose to end their lives. In advanced states like Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh, farmers are also forced to commit suicide. It’s so shameful and painful!
Official statistics say that about 353 million people are involved in farming in the country. These farmers owe a total loan of Rs 12,60,000 crores while the Rs. 6,70,000 crores which the industrialists of this country have taken as loans from banks are about to sink. It is called NPA, which is called non-performing assets in general language. However, there is a dispute over this figure. Experts say that the reduced NPA is being shown. The actual NPA is more than Rs. 12 lakh crores. Also know that the concession in the form of tax incentives to the tune of Rs. 17,14,000 crores have been given to industrial houses in the last three years. No strictness is shown to recover debt from the industries but the recovery agents of banks harass the farmers and take away cows & buffaloes from their house.
As far as loan waivers are concerned, the Reserve Bank of India rules advise not to take this step because this will upset the budget. It is also true that the states are not able to bear the full burden of loan waiver. But the question that arises is that when permission is granted to write off industries’ loans and they are given concessions as incentives then why should the farmers not get this facility? In Uttar Pradesh, the BJP wanted to win the election and hence made a promise for loan waiver. After winning the election, the BJP waived the farmers’ loans. Following the agitation, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis finally announced waiver of loans and most farmers will be debt free. I congratulate the chief minister for this but what about farmers in other states?
Some people raise the question that there was a loan waiver during Indira Gandhi’s time and the UPA government but what difference does that make? Farmers are still committing suicide! How has their situation improved? I believe loan waiver is an immediate diagnosis. In the spirit of time and relevance, it is very important that the farmers get relief. The lasting solution to the problem can not be found until we see farming from the industry perspective. If the industries have to be set up then farmers’ land is taken. The industrial belt is created. Road shows are organised at home and abroad to attract industry. Plans are made, technology is taken into account. All resources are prepared. Due thought is given to where the goods will be sold, the concessions and freebees are showered like anything but have you ever seen this type of idea being applied to farming?
The representatives of the farmers have also been reaching the Parliament and the state legislatures, have become ministers, but these leaders have never tried to capture the root cause of the problem. That is why whether they are Chaudhary Charan Singh, Devi Lal, Sharad Pawar, Mahendra Singh Tikait or Sharad Joshi, who are agitating in the name of farmers, the problems of farmers can not be solved. Swaminathan was a great honourable person under whose chairmanship the government had also formed a commission. He also presented the report but it has not been implemented till date. The government has never evinced will to transform the agriculture into industry and nor has the Planning Commission taken any such initiatives.
Many agricultural universities have been set up in this country but what are they apart from being white elephants? There is a lot of research on paper but on the ground, did the farmers get any benefit? It is necessary that thousands of agricultural workers should be trained which link farmers to modern technology. The government has to take initiative for this. Plans should be made. It will take years but the situation of the farmers will definitely improve.
More than 80 per cent of the farmers in this country are small land holders. They have land in pieces. As long as we continue to do the piecemeal farming, farming can not be transformed into a profitable proposition. A cluster of thousands of acres of land is readied in countries like America, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Brazil and Israel. Farmers have an involvement in the measurement of the land and get the benefit. Today, exotic fruits like Kiwi, Blackberry are coming from America, Japan, New Zealand, Australia. Japan cultivates such melons as are sold for between $250 and $500. Can we not cultivate such exotic fruits? But first, farmers should be equipped with technology and other resources!
There is no such effort to make cluster and train the farmers till date. Good seeds, good manure is very distant. There is no planning on what the farmers should grow so that they get good prices. We must also consider what kind of land we have and which crop can give better yield.
In my 18-year tenure in the Rajya Sabha, I have always raised questions about the status of farmers. With the figures, I kept this fact in the House that the crops are destroyed in the country due to shortage of water, due to excess water (flood) and hailstorms. So the government should plan how to save the farmers from flood and drought. For this, I have been continuously raising the demand in the House for providing necessary infrastructure. A large number of cold storages and warehouses are needed in this country. Millions of tonnes of grains rot every season. There should be an arrangement for marketing the farm produce. And all this should be on the ground, not on paper! Nothing will happen by launching farmers’ TV and farmers’ bulletin. There is a need to ensure water and power supply for farmers to cultivate and prosper? In a country where there are big scams in the name of irrigation, who is there to see if the farmer’s farm is getting water for irrigation or not? You have not seen a farmer living in a good bungalow and travelling in a big car but the people of who play the politics of farmers are enjoying themselves to the hilt. Cooperative banks were set up for farmers but political farmers are having all the fun. Farmers are dying, what difference does that make to them? Here there are the people who swallow the grain of the poor and yet do not feel ashamed nor pained. It seems that there is a lack of both shame and pain in the administrative system. The farmers’ suicide has become a subject of fun and frivolity. It is a good thing to love your children but do not hate children of others! We need a government that believes, that feels your pain! As long as the government does not feel the pain of farmers, the situation will remain the same.
However, many people are asking the question whether the current farmers’ agitation involves real farmers or representatives of the farmers or someone else is driving it in the name of farmers? I believe that farmers should avoid politicians and political parties as they target the government in the name of farmers.
Before I conclude
Britain which ruled India for nearly 200 years, today houses many parliamentarians of Indian origin. In the UK Parliament, Indian people have been flying the flag of their victory. In the latest election, 12 people of Indian origin including Preet Kaur Gill and Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi have been elected MPs. The last time this number was 10. This is really a heart-warming news.