Farmers’ plight in Maharashtra

The farmers of Maharashtra and other States continue to suffer. In the first four months of this year, 852 farmers committed suicide because they were deep in debt. Amid loud propaganda about ‘achievements’ of the NDA Government and the promise of an elusive ‘acche din’ the farmers of Maharashtra find no ray of hope anywhere. Their desperation has evoked widespread sympathies. Even Yashwant Sinha, a BJP leader and a former minister in the Vajpayee cabinet, joined the farmers’ protest at Akola and was detained by the police. The veteran BJP leader warned: “You can see the mood of the farmers. We won’t be responsible for what happens. We will continue our stir until all demands are met.” Though the leader later relented after receiving a personal request from Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, the condition of the farmers remains unchanged.
The main reason is that the farmers are not getting remunerative prices for their crops. BJP’s poll manifesto in 2014 promised: “BJP commits highest priority to agricultural growth, increase in farmers’ income and rural development. BJP will increase public investment in agriculture and rural development (and) ensure a minimum of 50 per cent profit over cost of production, cheaper agriculture inputs and credit, introducing latest technologies and high-yielding seeds . . . `` Has any of these promises been fulfilled?  Are the farmers, not only in Maharashtra but across the country, getting “fifty per cent profit over cost of production?” The answer is a resounding “No.”
Applying the power of the State to break the protest movements of the farmers cannot solve the problem. Agriculture has to be made remunerative and attractive. Raising fertilizer prices from year to year and raising the cost of all farm inputs will increase the misery of the farmers. The corporate sector can make the public sector banks sick by not repaying loans running into lakhs of crores of ruees. The Government cannot bring the defaulters to book. But any step to relieve the suffering of the farmers, like waiving of loans, is immediately condemned as unpardonable ‘populism’ and pampering the farmers at the cost of the public exchequer. As long as such thinking dominates and determines the policy decisions of the Centre towards agriculture and agriculturists, the plight and penury of the peasants will not go away.
The Government has failed to attract investment by throwing open practically every sector of the economy. Recession shows no sign of abating, despite the much tom-tomed certificate of the Moody’s and accolades coming from other quarters. But the cry of the people who feed the nation evokes no response from the powers that be. Do they realize the economic and political price the country will have to pay for their policy?

Monday, 11 December, 2017