The farmers’ march in Delhi

Capital Delhi witnessed a massive rally of farmers on Thursday highlighting their plight and demanding debt waiver and fixing higher prices for their produce. The Government insists that loan waiver is not a solution. Indeed, it is not. The solution lies in making agriculture profitable. For that several things are necessary. First computing the actual cost of production which includes all the inputs like seeds, fertilizers, irrigation water, the cost of electricity or diesel for running the pumpsets and the cost of labour – one’s own or that of hired labour. Here lies the rub. The production cost arbitrarily fixed by the concerned government agencies is lower than the actual cost. So, in calculating the Minimum Support Price (MSP) as cost of production plus fifty per cent, the farmer suffers the first loss because his actual production cost is higher than that fixed by the Government. Then comes the second deprivation. The farmer does not get even the MSP calculated on this basis. He gets paid less. The cumulative effect of this over years and decades has brought the farmers on the verge of disaster. Their indebtedness is rising. And keeping pace with this rise, cases of suicide are also rising. Many farmers are prepared to give up farming and take any other job. Unfortunately, jobs are not being created. Rather, those employed are losing their jobs.
An independent MP, Raju Shethi, leader of the Swabhiman Paksha, introduced two private members’ Bill in the Lok Sabha last August. One is titled “Farmers’ Freedom from Indebtedness Bill, 2018” and the other is the “Farmers’ Right to Guaranteed Remunerative Minimum Support Prices for Agricultural commodities Bill, 2018.” Private members’ bills never become the law but they highlight the problems and put pressure on the Government to enact necessary laws. If the Bills introduced by Shethi goad the government into accepting the reality of farmers’ distress and taking long term measures to alleviate the distress of the farmers, they will have served their purpose. But it will be idle to expect that the NDA Government, in the few months left of its tenure, will take any substantive steps to solve the farmers’ problems. It will have to be tackled by the next government – whichever party’s government it may be. The opposition which hopes to come to power next year should, right from now, seriously think about the policy they will have to formulate to make farming profitable and end the farmers’ plight.

Sunday, 2 December, 2018