By Santosh Bhartiya
To the annoyance of government, farmers from many parts of the country rose up in a peaceful agitation in February 22 and 23. They had set off for Delhi’s Ramlila Ground to apprise the government of their ordeal. These Delhi-bound, peacefully agitating farmers were halted and lathicharged at many places by police, and the food and water they were carrying on their tractors were also destroyed.
Having no tag other than farmer was their only fault; non-affiliation to any political party added to their woes, as their cry fell on deaf ears of Delhi’s power corridors. Nonetheless, the intent of these farmers was to remind the prime minister of the promise he had made during the run up to the elections: that his government would ensure at least 50 percent profit to the farmers on the total cost of their crop. But that promise, it seems, has been consigned to the oblivion. However, the farmers invoked a mythological story to remind the prime minister of his promises – when Dushyant had forgotten his wife Shakuntala, he was shown her ring, and then he recognized her. Similarly the farmers believe that that when they remind PM Modi of his word over and over after coming to Delhi, only then he will remember what he had promised. But at the behest of the centre, the state governments are not allowing the farmers to tumble in Delhi at any cost. The states which took all kinds of troubles – jails, lathicharge, road-blocks, etc. – to prevent farmers from coming to Delhi were all BJP-ruled states.
Traditionally, the BJP has never been considered a pro-farmers party; it was always considered a pro-traders party, but now even the traders have become increasingly aware of the fact that that this government is working only for some big industrial houses. Perhaps that is why the BJP has kept the problems of farmers at the bottom of its priority list that will never come into reckoning.
I will summon here two great Indian scientists, Ghagh and and Bhartrihari. They understood the problems beset the rural areas of the country and wrote in simple couplets using mundane language about weather, natural disasters, and the problems farmers might face in the future. Even now, the people in villages get to know as to what the sky has in store by looking at floating clouds and the changing colors of the sky? But there is no one in central government who can see the imminent storm coming. Maybe that’s why they are unable to read the warning written in the sky.
However, without any political patronage, the farmers’ march to Delhi has made it clear once and for all that they are now standing up for the struggle on their own. Nonetheless, wherever they were stopped, they sat on the dharna and started making their own rotis and in some cases food started coming from neighboring villages. If the government does not understand this sign, then it is committing a mistake of monumental proportion.
The message from the governments is loud and clear, peaceful agitation will never attended to; only violent agitations – like that of the Gujjar reservation agitation that had crippled the Delhi-Mumbai railroad in Rajasthan for weeks or the Jat reservation agitation in Haryana that left the state to virtual anarchy – command government attention. The government is pushing the farmers to indulge in acts like Naxalites in Odisha, where they kidnapped a district collector to get their demands accepted. I have a few requests to the government: don’t push the farmers to that extent where they have to resort to violence, attend to their problems immediately, and fulfill your promise of giving them additional 50 percent to the cost incurred on farming.
Apart from this, the government should allow people to build thermal controlled storage units in every block or subdivision of the country so that the farmers should store their crops in them. Such units should be built on government-defined standard by common people who can pocket the rent of these facilities. At the same time, permission should be grant to local investors to install food processing units based on local crops at block level so that a market for local crop become available in block itself, which in the end will attract even big businessmen towards villages.
If the government starts procuring goods for police, security forces and other social plans directly from industrial units located in villages instead of contractors, then millions of people will get jobs and lakhs of industries will emerge across the country. This will also change the industrial landscape of the country. For this you have to depart from the path of market-oriented, neoliberal economic policy.
Even in this backdrop the government refuses to analyze the entire economy from the farmers’ perspective, and inviting a bigger crisis for the future. It is in fact written on the sky.
Non-political agitations of farmers should be supported to all possible extent by all and sundry, but our so-called national news channels have become so self-indulgent, effete and decadent that they do not pay any attention to the sufferings of the farmers. Perhaps they are unable to fathom the enormity of danger farmers anger can bring, but this is their problem. The farmer is now ready to march for Delhi. One of the most interesting observations during the 22-23 February march to Delhi was that the young people of the farmers’ households have taken on the mantle of this the movement. It is to be seen how long the government takes to understand the signs of the imminent danger.