The manner in which the farmers of Maharashtra placed their demands before the government deserves all praise. Thousands of farmers marched to Mumbai covering 180 kilometres of distance without causing any inconvenience to public. The agitating farmers carried their protest in true Gandhian way and observed peaceful protest. It should set an example for the rest of the country. The Maharashtra Government and its Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis deserves congratulations for handling the situation and meeting the demands of the farmers. The protest march ended on a peaceful note.
In the past, farmers’ agitation held in Delhi and some other parts of the country had turned violent. Last year, the farmers of Tamil Nadu held protest rallies and demonstration at Jantar Mantar for days. In order to draw the attention of the media and to get publicity, the agitating farmers of Tamil Nadu did some unusual things. They sat on dharna with human skulls and consumed urine to demonstrate their anger and protest.
Few farmers made naked demonstrations while others ate rats and some others displayed snakes; taking the hood of snake into their mouth. Their demands might have been justified but the manner of protest was baffling and in bad taste. As a result of which they returned empty handed. People of Delhi also did not take any cognizance of the agitating farmers from Tamil Nadu.
In sharp contrast, people of Maharashtra extended all help to the farmers. On the way to Mumbai, local people provided eatables and drinking water. In Mumbai, some volunteers extended ‘first aid’ medical service to those farmers who needed care.
In India, no government of political party or coalition arrangement can afford to be anti-farmer. The latest example we witnessed in Mumbai. Thousands of farmers were on street, but the government listened to their problems and accepted the demands. This is the real example of goodwill which is strength of our democracy.
Not loan waivers alone
Now our farmers are not asking for loan waiver alone. They are concerned about their future. In many parts of the country the farmers who give us food, vegetables, milk are on streets demanding a fair deal for their produce. The basic question which arises here is why the farmers have to hit the street for their demands? Why famers are committing suicide? One main reason is that they are unable to recover the cost of their produce. More or less this is the situation be it in Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh or Madhya Pradesh.
Even today approximately 70 per cent of the population depends on agriculture and farm related work. Remaining 30 per cent of our population who has nothing to do with farming is fed by this 70 per cent of our population. Yet our farmers are neglected. Their problem is financial. They are in distress. The way Maharashtra Government has resolved the issue, one can hope that our farmers would not have to run from pillar to post seeking redressal of their grievances.
Pitiable condition of farmers
Believe it the condition of average farmers is worse than the peon working in government office. Is it justifiable that our farmers should suffer in this condition? The answer to this question is known to you all. Let us look at some official statistics on farmers, their plight will be known.
A report of income and expenditure of farmers in National Sample Survey reveals the plight of farmers in our country.
According to the report published in December 2014, of a total of 9 crores farmers in India, 6.25 crores of farmers have one or less than a hectare of land which is roughly equivalent to 2.5 acre holding. Average expenditure of a family having one hectare of holding exceeds average monthly income earned from farming. The farmer earns Rs 2145 from the land while agriculture work fetches him around Rs. 2011 in a month. On an average, farming family earns some Rs 649 from animal husbandry and another Rs 462 from non-agriculture work. If you add all income it comes to Rs 5247 in a month against monthly expenditure of Rs 6020 to Rs. 7500. Compared to this a peon working in government offices earns Rs 20,000 in a month.
The government has fixed the rate of workers engaged in institutions at Rs. 15,000 a month besides, accommodation, power, medical fund and pension. But the plight of farmers continues to be pitiable.
Sometime back, I had an opportunity to meet the farmers in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra. I inquired about the name of a farmer in Yavatmal. He replied, “You will come to know not only my name but names of all sitting here when we will commit suicide”. I was stunned to hear this. I mustered some courage to ask the reason for this extreme decision of ending life.
“We are all graduates. After we finished education we applied for jobs which we did not get. Many of us here sold land at cheaper rates to get jobs but in vein. Then we decided to return to our village and do farming on whatever land we own. But it does not give us two square meals. We are all young here aged 30-32 years. We are not getting married for the simple reason that nobody wants to give their daughter in marriage to a farmer. Under the circumstances what we can we do except ending our lives by committing suicide”. This was frank and brutally true response to the reason for suicide.
It’s wrong to suggest that the government has not done anything for farmers’ welfare. Had it been so, there would not have been the “Green Revolution” in India. The government is running Agriculture Research Centers and Agriculture Universities that offers the necessary assistance to farmers. The objective is to offer some innovative methods of farming to augment farm income. Under the Prime Minister Agriculture Irrigation scheme, a minimum facility of irrigation is to be made available to farmers for saving the crop. Farmers are being trained to conserve water and make optimal use of water for irrigation purpose. The NDA government has decided to compensate farmers if the crop loss is 33 per cent or more due to deficient or excessive rain. Earlier the compensation for crop loss was provided only when the loss was 50 per cent or more.
But this is also a fact which we should admit that it is not possible for any family with one hectare land holding to maintain a family, give education and meet social expenses like marriage.
One way is that our farmers should return to our traditional way of farming. Use less pesticide and fertilizer and undertake dairy production. We should also encourage our farmers to do poultry and animal husbandry to raise income.
R K Sinha
(The writer is a Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha)