n four years of the BJP government, the farmers across the country came on the roads for several reasons. On Gandhi Jayanti, several farmers organised a protest in support of their demands, but shockingly they were welcomed with tear gas and water cannons by the Delhi Police to stop them from entering the national capital. At least 30,000 farmers, who have walked or travelled in tractors from Uttar Pradesh, have been stopped at the heavily barricaded Delhi-UP border. Angry farmers tried to break the barriers and raised slogans forcing the police to use batons, tear gas shells, and water cannons to disperse them. Several protesters were injured in the process. In a similar protest in March this year, about 35,000 farmers walked for about 180 km in the blazing sun from Maharashtra’s Nashik to Mumbai to press their demands. They were sent back after an assurance from the state government, but they say that the promises are yet to be fulfilled.
The distressed farmers are marching as part of their “Kisan Kranti Padyatra” to demand loan waiver, subsidised electricity, and fuel, pension for the farmers above 60 and implementation of recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission.
On International Day of Non-Violence, the BJP’s Gandhi Jayanti celebrations started with an attack on farmers who were peacefully marching to register their protest. Why are they not being allowed to enter Delhi? This government has not fulfilled the promises it made to the farmers; so, it is natural that the farmers would protest. It is calamitous — why to attack the farmers while they should have been allowed to voice their concern. If loan waiver is not possible, then the government should provide them reasonable prices for their crops, electricity, connectivity, and needed infrastructure and lower fuel prices. Their core problem will automatically solve. The government needs to understand that the farmers are not begging. It is their right. The BJP is making things beyond worst than the earlier Congress. Loan waiver lollipop will not help the farmers in a long run and the implementation of Swaminathan Committee’s recommendation is needed, otherwise, the situation will become worse sooner or later.
After industries, the agricultural sector contributes the maximum to India’s GDP and is deemed the primary occupation for a majority of the masses, according to our textbooks. If this is the case, why has it been faring so poorly in the past decade? During his four years reign as the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi has taken many big-ticket decisions including demonetisation and surgical strikes against Pakistan.
The Narendra Modi government is just a few months away from the next general election. The Prime Minister and BJP President Amit Shah have said on several occasions that they will present the report card of their government during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and leave it to the people to judge its performance. With the growing rate of farmer suicides that has been witnessed since the beginning of 2015, one has to wonder why the government, despite its many claims, hasn’t sprung up and adopted any drastic measures to help change the helpless situations the farmers find themselves in, leading them to turn to the noose. The farmers in India, particularly marginal farmers, suffered in silence — closeness to the earth and its soil and to nature impart certain strength of character that allows for enduring harsh circumstances, they say. Occasionally, however, these sons of our soil would vent their frustration by resorting to suicide.
And over the years, the suicide rates grew in number, commensurate with the general suicide rate. Given this background, the now oft-witnessed farmers’ rallies in the Capital and in other parts of the country could be seen as motivated by an awakening that was imminent. However, with political parties — led by the CPI and joined by several opposition parties — now having taken up cudgels on behalf of the farmers, it appears to have become a movement of sorts against the Central government. Their threats to escalate matters by ideas like “fill the jails” and comparing it with the Indian freedom movement are proof that the agitation is unlikely to die down in a hurry.
The demands rally mostly around two issues — loan waiver and setting MSP at 50 per cent above the cost of production, as per the Swaminathan Committee report. Unfortunately, for PM Modi, he had promised these two things in his election speeches in 2014 and that is what the agitating leaders want him to make good. It doesn’t help that after forming the government at the Centre, Modi realised the impossibility of implementing these two conditions. Despite India being an agricultural country, most of its youth is darting away from the sector, looking instead to take up menial jobs in big cities. For the past decade, only 15 million jobs have been made available to the teeming billions on the prowl, during the 10-year reign of the UPA government. Investment proposals received by DIPP for new projects to be set up in 2014-15 showed a possibility of creating a maximum of 4.11 lakh jobs — not nearly enough to meet the needs of the majority of the population. Well, so far the government to help educate and train the existing farmers in the happenings of the sector has implemented no measure. 80 per cent of the public expenditure going to agriculture is in the form of input subsidies like fertilisers, power, and irrigation, with only 20 per cent being direct investments in agriculture. Lot more needs to be done and delivered, or else PM Modi should accept that he made hollow promises just to garner votes.
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