Question of farmer has never been out of the agenda of elections. Prime Minister Modi, in the run up to his elections, promised to give a certain minimum support price to farmers. He also promised to help double the farm income by 2022. Similarly, Bihar elections were fought on the question of farmers, which Lalu Yadav-Nitish Kumar alliance won. Uttar Pradesh elections too were fought on the question of farmers, which Bharatiya Janata Party won. Despite being on the agenda of all political parties, the same set of farm-related issues crop up on the list of farmers’ organizations like – seeds are in short supply, price of fertilizers are hitting the roof, seeds are either of poor quality or supplied by multinational companies that lose the productivity in single sowing. Moreover, farmers do not get the proper price of their produce, because government procurements are manipulated, traders trick price drop at the time of harvesting and when prices go up the farmers do not get any benefit from it.
Question bobs up as to why the issues remain tangled? Be it the BJP, or the Congress, or the Samajwadi Party or any other party, they all have a subsidiary farmers association. They feign fighting with all their might for the cause of farmers when they are not in power. Left parties try to organize farmers under the Kisan Sabha, but they fail to do so. Be that as it may, various organizations are once again out with farmer-related issues on the road.
The farmer gets entangled in the debt trap so much so that he commits suicide. Earlier, it was the local money lender and now it is the bank which abets or compels him to take the extreme step. The milieu in which a farmer lives, the sense of individual dignity bears lot of weight. If his reputation of person living in that milieu is compromised, his resolution is that it is meaningless to remain alive. He kills himself and gets rid of his humiliation, but leaves his family behind to wage a ruinous struggle to live on.
Prime Minister Modi has completed three years in office. The gala events to celebrate the occasion are on, but the farmers are conspicuously absent in these events. Farmers from Tamil Nadu have gone home after staging protests in Delhi; now it is Maharashtra’s turn to see the agitating farmers. The issue of loan waiver is galvanizing farmers under the leadership of BJP MP Raju Shetty, who is preparing to organize a march from Pune to Mumbai. He is inviting leaders of other organizations as well to join his march. Raju Shetty is a BJP MP and if I am not wrong more than 80 percent of the MPs of the Party have a famer background, but these leaders are not part of Raju Shetty-led protest march. The BJP has not formulated any policy on the loan waiver. Instead of making beggar out of farmers, the government should put in some policies to make them self-sufficient.
Since independence almost all the parties have formed government at the centre, but the condition of farmer has remained unchanged. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister for almost seven years. Perhaps due to lack of majority in the house he could not do anything for the farmers. Now there is the BJP government in Delhi. I do not just expect loan waiver from this government, but I do expect it to formulate a holistic policy for farmers, as the party has two-thirds majority in Parliament. I expect the government to institute a farmer commission and give it constitutional status so that the problems of farmers come to the notice of the government. Though Jantar-Mantar is in Delhi, but it is a place from where no matter how loud your shout, your voice will die down before reaching the Government or Parliament of India, which are located a stone’s throw away from there. In fact, to carry that voice to the government there should be a constitutionally mandated organization.
Farmers of about 700-800 villages of Maharashtra’s Aurangabad and Nasik districts have taken a resolve that they will not grow fruit and produce milk for Mumbai. They have also decided to cultivate only one acre of land for their own use. They say that it is futile to engage into farming wherein it is difficult even to recover the cost incurred in cultivation, and they have to burn down their crops and throw away vegetables on the road. If this proposition of Maharashtra farmers is accepted by the farmers across the country, then cities like Mumbai and Delhi will face food crisis, and the government will have to import food grains in large quantity. I believe the government should be a bit more sensitive towards this issue.
When the farmer was told about Achche Din, he felt that if it would not be the first or second year, in the third year he would get the price of his yield according to the promises. He will get cheap electricity, he will get water and he will get the factory in his own block to process his crops. He will get at least as much money which will enable him to send his child to school and marry his daughter and live a life a little more dignified. Perhaps this is the reason farmers are staging protest march led by an MP belonging to the BJP.
I just want to remind that if the thread of hopes the farmers have is broken, then a new wave of farmer suicides will begin in the country. Jantar Mantar is place where farmers open their hearts out, and this is the same place where Modi after becoming Prime Minister promised that he would change the situation. But Delhi is such a charming city where the government as well as the opposition forgets even to honor their sincerity. The opposition too sets aside the issues that farmers face. MPs from farming background can take the basic problem of the farmers to the Prime Minister and the President, but it seems that by joining Parliament they do not like to be identified as farmers. Probably, this is the reason why they do not put their demands before the government.