Santosh Bhartiya : Is it really so that a big conspiracy has been hatched or in the process of being hatched against farmers? This question comes to the fore because an important administrative order has been issued by the Madhya Pradesh government, and that has not found space in newspapers or on the television screen; only district magistrates were let in on it. Perhaps the Madhya Pradesh government is powerful enough to easily place its exploits under wrap. The government believes that not only in Madhya Pradesh but in any part of the country newspapers and television can be manipulated through money and power. Now I’ll expound on the raison d’être of this.
On 19 July, Madhya Pradesh Government has issued a gazetted notification under which the district magistrate was empowered to arrest anyone under the National Security Act in suspicion of breaching law and order. The first phase of this notification has been effective from 1 July for three months. However, what was the reason that the Madhya Pradesh government has to issue this notification? Who presents threat to the law and order in the state?
This threat of law and order is only from the agitating farmers, who demand nothing but what Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised in 2014. They begin their agitation, demanding debt waiver and a minimum support price for their crops that should be 50 percent more than their spending. But they are getting lathis and bullets and even jails for their demands instead.
Madhya Pradesh has become a new graveyard for farmers. A year ago, we carried a series of detailed stories on farmer’s plight in the state in the Chauthi Duniy. We concluded that in coming days more and more farmers might commit suicide. Before doing those stories many farmers had committed suicides. Our correspondent visited kith and kin of the deceased and identified the causes that led farmers to end their lives, but that left no effect on the government. Even during recent farmers agitation many farmers have committed suicide in Madhya Pradesh. The farmers’ demands and spat of suicides have created a wave of anxiety and anger among farming community. In village after village the farmer is not only agitated and angry, but also become united. Perhaps this is the reason why the Madhya Pradesh government is hell bent on suppressing their anger by imposing NSA. And this is the reason that the District Magistrates – so as to frighten farmers – have been given the right to arrest the farmers en masse under the NSA from 1 July. The Government in Madhya Pradesh believes that farmers can be easily silenced by unsheathing the sword of the NSA, and so they took the decision to impose this draconian law without letting the country know.
This question why not a single leader from any political party has made a statement on this make me disturb? Why the media maintained a silence on the issue? Their silence amounts to betrayal against the farmers. The situation is such that the famer’s agitation and their anger have spread in those parts of the country – for example in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand – which have hitherto been untouched by such things. Like the other affected areas, in these areas too the government apathy led the farm suicides. Neither the government of India nor the Niti Ayog has time to focus on debt problem or underpriced crops or other related issues faced by farmers. This attitude forced farmers to commit suicide. It will be matter of study that whether farmers are being benefited by whatever debt waiver the government is giving to them. The reality is that in some cases the farmers are getting discounts on interest from Rs 7 to Rs 27. Prior to Madhya Pradesh, the areas of farmer suicides were concentrated in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra. Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan are new entrants. Hardik Patel, the farmer leader in Gujarat, says that hundreds of farmers have committed suicide in Gujarat, a sizeable number of them belong to Patel community. In spite of that neither state government nor does the central government pay any hid to that. Now it seems that the farmers have become disappointed lot. Their produce like onions, tomatoes and potatoes are rotting; they are not getting proper price of their produce. Banks place notices at their door and they commits suicide for his social reputation being hurt. Perhaps it has become a new normal for MPs and MLAs, who won on farmer’s votes, not to talk about farmers’ problems anymore.
Has the Prime Minister become so insensitive that he is not suggesting his ministers to handle this problem on priority basis? The first thing that the government should done is to pay attention to problems faced by farmers and waive their loan and fixed the price of farm produce based on what the Prime Minister has promised. At the same time, the government should take decision to install industry based on the crop grown in every block of the country. To do this the government need not have to spend money. The farmers themselves can put agro-based industries in their block; the only thing the government has to do is to remove red-tapism, bribery and corruption from the middle. But the government will not do this, because it will hurt the market-based economy and the farmers not only stand on their feet, but also become self-reliant. Our apprehension is that if the farmer movement became violent, will the police be able to handle it? The Madhya Pradesh government has taken lead in imposing NSA against farmers and there is no doubt that the rest of the state will follow the suit. In this backdrop what will the farmers do? Should they stop sowing crops and become subsistent farmer? If this happen the country will face the same situation that Mumbai has faced in the month of May-June this year. Farmers had blocked the roads and prevented many essential commodities including milk from reaching Mumbai, which led sky rocketing prices of those commodities in the city. Does the government want to create such a situation for the entire country? I am just requesting that the Prime Minister should ask the Niti Ayog to make a farmer centric policy, set up a farmer’s commission, which has constitutional status, and which remain directly in touch with the Union Cabinet. If this does not happen, then the voice of the farmer will never reach the ears of the government.
Interestingly, farm loan waiver and installing industry for farmers require much less amount than the loan waiver handed to industrialists. But how ironic is it that the industrialists run away from the country taking money from the banks and the bank waives their debt, while the farmer ends his life for a loan worth rupees two lakh to three lakh rupees. Yet the government stands in favor of industrialists, and neglect the farmers, whereas the government is duty bound to protect the farmers. It is high time that the government should do something. Firstly, Madhya Pradesh government should take back imposition of NSA and other states should make sure that they should not impose it in their state either. It is very strange that both farmers and businessmen are unhappy with this government. The government is not paying any hid to this unhappiness today, but when it comes to the terms of it tomorrow, it might be too late.