Kudos to Afternoon Voice for dedicating the 7th Newsmakers achievers award function to farmers who had committed suicide due to weak monsoon and crop failure. The author has rightly pointed out in its editorial that “Like us, people should come forward to help farmers.” It clearly shows that the farmers’ woes continue and they are plagued by many problems such as short supply of good seeds, lack of crop insurance, inadequate water supply, poor storage facilities, etc. Farmers committing suicide is one of the biggest challenges before the administration. Crop failure and debts are considered the main reasons for farmers’ suicide. This is common in an area where the single crop pattern is in practice. Farmers should be introduced to some sustainable means of farming system. The delay in distribution of compensation is also the biggest reason for the farmers to take the extreme step. Besides, the vicious cycle of crop loan in combination with erratic monsoon in the region leaves the farmers with no option but to take the extreme step. Agriculture must be supplemented by allied activities like vegetable production, diary, so that farmer suicides are brought down to a great extent.
As per the 2011 census, 52 per cent of the country’s workforce is engaged in agriculture. The agricultural sector is India’s biggest employer but over the past few decades, this segment has been systematically starved of financial resources, and continuing neglect and apathy has turned farming highly uneconomical. The focus on the rural economy, particularly agriculture and rural development, deserve to be appreciated. The announcement for an increase in expenditure on MGNREGA and Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana is welcome in this regard. Problem should be seen humanely and dealt with sensitively. Every year, huge volumes of water from rivers go into the sea, which can be effectively tapped by constructing reservoirs and pumping stations. Ensuring water security for the farmers via water management is the solution to the problem in a region where crops frequently fail. I feel that farmers’ distress has not been correctly read by those who advocate steps for their emancipation. The commitment of the government to increase spending on agriculture will certainly come as a relief to millions of farmers in rural India in the long run. The increased allocation for MGNREGA reaffirms the fact that it is still the way to ensure the uplift of the rural poor. One hopes that support to the agriculture sector will be used to promote agro-based industries including marketing assistance, credit, warehousing and cold storage facilities. It is acknowledged that the magnificent edifice of our market-based economy rests on the strength of farmers and the agricultural sector.
Vinod C. Dixit
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)