The farm sector crisis

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan’s ‘indefinite fast’ to ‘restore peace’ lasted one day. But the farmers’ agitation spreads to MP, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Haryana. Without going into the roots of the farm sector crisis, the leaders of ruling party are accusing the Congress of ‘instigating’ the farmers and bringing ‘anti-social elements’ to create trouble. They refuse to face the fact that nobody can be ‘provoked’ to come to clashes with the State unless there is a strong reason for it. They conveniently forget the fact that in Maharashtra their ally, the Shiv Sena, is also taking part in the stir. The party did not take part in a State cabinet meeting for the way the stir is being dealt with. The differences in the BJP on the loan waiver issue have also come into the open: Maharashtra has announced a waiver, UP has announced a partial waiver but the MP Government says no waiver is possible.
Meanwhile, every day farmers are committing suicide because of the huge debts they have run into and have no means of repaying. Hardik Patel, the leader of the Gujarat farmers’ agitation, was arrested on Saturday at the MP-Rajasthan border when he was leading a march to Mandsaur to express his solidarity with the agitating MP farmers. There is a systematic effort at diverting public attention from the burning problems of the day by playing up stray, inadvertent comments of individual Opposition leaders. But this cannot hide the truth. The truth is that the farm economy is in crisis which has been developing for years and for which no government –  UPA or NDA – has a solution.
To be sure, loan waiver is not a solution. It is in fact a remedy worse than the disease. The total agricultural loan outstanding as on September 30, 2016, stood at Rs. 12.60 lakh crore. This information was given to the Rajya Sabha by Union MoS for Agriculture Purshottam Rupala during its last session. UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has announced waiver of farm loans to the marginal and middle-level farmers of the State in April. This has brought a burden of Rs. 30,000 crores on the State. How does he propose to deal with it?
Agriculture contributes just 18 per cent to the GDP but provides employment, direct or indirect, to over nearly two-thirds of the population. The surplus labour has to taken off and given employment in industry. This requires heavy investment. But fresh investment has dried up despite the government throwing open all sectors of the economy. How can the permanent crisis in agriculture be solved?

Friday, 16 June, 2017