The maximum city was again brought to its knees, this time not by any protesting community but by distressed Maharashtra farmers. Though they didn’t jeopardise peace of Mumbai, but did give a wake-up call to Mumbaikars on rising problems of farmers. Farmers are the real backbone of the country, and India ranks second worldwide in farm output. Well it is not just rains adding to misery, but the state government also has an equal share in adding to the apathetic state of farmers in state. The march was called at the right juncture and yielded the best results. We all feel that the farmers of Maharashtra State are secured lot from now on and better council will prevail from here on. With drought for four consecutive years, farmers from Marathwada and Vidharba region went to state for helping hand and demanded waiving off their loans. The BJP-led Maharashtra government was forced to budge under pressure from farmer’s group. While farmers lashed out against the delay in implementing the loan waiver scheme and the many conditions placed on the beneficiaries, the opposition too criticised BJP government over the issue. Now the benefits accorded to farmers should reach them in time and avoid further delay. For disposal of funds to farmers, the nationalised banks can be pressed into service for disbursal in the affected areas and make sure that the farmers did not suffer any longer in the state.
Farmers march to Vidhan Sabha was planned in a peaceful way and that made the Maharashtra Government to make up the lost time and do a world of good to the farmers in the state. This year initially due to bad rain, subsequently pesticide spraying poisoning crisis and now there are alarming reports of sudden surge in pink boll worm and other pest attack on standing crops of cotton, soybean, paddy, pluses in dying field of Vidarbha and Marathwada. The situation is unprecedented and looks like more than 50 per cent of crop would now be lost to the worms that should not have attacked the genetically modified Bt cotton at all in the past. Now the farmers are desperate and hope to get maximum debt relief through loan waiver, implementation of recommendations of the Dr MS Swaminathan Commission, adequate compensation for all farmers whose crops were destroyed by the pink boll worm, pension to poor farmers and implementation of Forest Right Act. Number of suicide cases are reported from Marathwada region and that is causing concern. Recent cases of suicides were reported due to the recent untimely rains and hailstorm. Farmers in Maharashtra are going from bad to worse. This time it is unseasonal rain that leads to Rs 1000 crore-crop loss in the state. Two days of rains cost enough damage to the crops mostly in Yavatmal district alone. The farmers’ distress is bound to continue so long as the general approach to agriculture management remains flawed. It is time to take drastic steps to prevent suicidal deaths. Now, it is the duty of the bankers to take up the lead to make things happen quickly and solve the agrarian crisis. It is a now or never situation.
Rural in contemporary India is going through an identity crisis and these agitations are a manifestation of this crisis situation. This agitation is a distorted form of resistance against the model of development which is being followed by the Indian state. The political class has to understand this anxiety and address it more sensibly instead of resorting to methods of coercion. Farmers’ protests’ have once again become a national issue. This time, it is not the suicide of farmers but of assertion and anger expressed on the roads in the cities and challenging the state machinery. The state should call a meeting of the agricultural experts and find an amicable solution to the pressing problems rather than just prolonging the matter for further protests in the wake of agrarian crisis. The delay in decision making had cost heavily and the issue has come to the streets of Mumbai. Proper planning would have avoided all the discomfiture to the farmers in Maharashtra state as well to the government machinery to act in a well set manner.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)