The spreading farmers’ stir

The Opposition today does not present any challenge to the BJP or its Government. But the farmers’ stir that is spreading across Central and Western India – from Madhya Pradesh to Maharashtra to Rajasthan to Haryana – does. The BJP is still essentially a Hindi-belt party and what is happening there cannot but be a cause of its worry. In Madhya Pradesh, as the situation turned from bad to worse the party had to change its position on almost a daily basis. First, the State Home Minister denied that the police fired on the agitating farmers. He insinuated that it was the Congress which had brought ‘outsiders’ and ‘anti-social elements’ who had created trouble and hinted that these elements were responsible for the firing. Soon enough the confession came from high police officials that the police, indeed, had opened fire. The compensation to the kin of the dead was raised from Rs. 2 lakh to Rs. 10 lakh to Rs. 1 crore.
A touch with the ground realities would have made it clear to Shivraj Singh Chouhan and his colleagues that it was no ‘provocation` from outside trouble-makers that was behind the movement. The plain fact was that farming had become uneconomic to the small and marginal farmers. The minimum support price (MSP) fixed by the Government does not even cover the cost of production, not to speak of generating any surplus for the farmer. Crops produced cannot be sold in the market because the market price is very low and the farmers would prefer to burn their standing crops, which they did. In field after field the farmers did not harvest the standing crop. So, sowing for the next season was out of question. Suicide by farmers has become a matter of daily occurrence. In the circumstances, no ‘outside provocation’ was necessary to drive the farmers on the war path.
There is still time to assuage the wounded feelings of the farmers by waiving their loans, by offering them price that would not only cover their cost of production but also make farming profitable for them. Blaming other parties for the situation that has developed and is still developing cannot solve the basic problem being faced by the farmers. Rather than treating their movement as a law-and-order problem as is the BJP’s wont, it should invite the farmers for talks and arrive at a settlement that would make farming profitable for them.

Tuesday, 13 June, 2017