Issues

India: Farmers need real support, not just verbal assurances

SIGNS OF THE TIMES

We have been very unfair to our farmers. Political rulers haven’t bothered to look at their plight, even when farmers took the extreme step - killing themselves in sheer desperation. The spotlight on them came only recently when farmers came out with details of their dismal survival conditions and together with that activists took to highlighting the ground realities. The most articulate of them all is Swaraj India’s Yogendra Yadav. He is, as always, armed with facts and figures; hitting out at the sarkar of the day – “It may seem that the Budget aims to improve the conditions of the farmers, but it is all a hoax…The only solution to the grievances of the farmers is an increase in their income which is directly related to the price.”

Yogendra Yadav focuses on some startling facts: the budgetary allocation to agriculture has come down to 2.36% from last year’s 2.38%. Also, a survey conducted by the government found that the farmers’ income has been stagnant for the last four years, with it being the lowest in 25 years. Also, the government has not been fulfilling its promise on the MNREGS. According to the requirements of the states, an estimated Rs 80,000 crore is required, whereas the government is providing only Rs 55,000 crore, which is the same as last year.

Farmers are not impressed with the Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s latest Budget announcement that the MSPs in the next kharif season — for crops to be harvested after September 2018 — would be fixed at 1.5 times the production costs. Why? Because existing MSPs are not getting implemented so what to talk of the so-called upcoming ones! Just about a hyped repeat of promises of some more schemes getting launched. Announcements but nothing really happening on the marker front. Dismal reality on the selling front – unsold stocks lying with the government from last year’s record procurement.

The much flaunted and more than hyped government’s Minimum Support Price (MSP) carries nil hope, simply because it is not reaching out to the farmer and is not lessening his plight. Though, initially, MSP was looked at as a form of market intervention by the Government to insure agricultural producers against any sharp fall in farm prices; some sort of a governmental support to the farmers from distress sales and to procure food grains for public distribution when market price for the commodity falls below the announced minimum price due to bumper production and glut in the market…It was expected by the farmers that the governmental agencies purchase the entire quantity offered by the farmers at the announced minimum price, but then the ground reality bared another picture – dark and gloomy. As it’s often said: hearing or giving political speeches is one thing but what’s actually delivered out there, on the ground, to the hapless, is another thing!

And this time the hapless is the farmer of our country. The man who feeds us with his produce. Look how we are treating him! We are hell-bent on destroying him. Forcing and compelling him to kill and hang himself. Reducing him to becoming a pauper or a labourer on daily wages…One news report after another speaks of farmers sitting ruined overnight, cheated by the bunch of promises made by the sarkar of the day.

The situation is grave. News reports bare these grim facts and figures: The government is unable to enforce MSP even in sugarcane where mills are required to pay the Centre’s fair and remunerative price (FRP) within 14 days of purchase from farmers. In Maharashtra, the average FRP for the 2017-18 crushing season is Rs 255 per quintal (linked to a 9.5 per cent sugar recovery), while Uttar Pradesh (UP) has a flat state-advised price or SAP of Rs 315/quintal for normal cane varieties. However, as on January 31, Maharashtra mills had paid growers only Rs 8,150.09 crore out of their FRP dues of Rs 10,685.23 crore, while the corresponding figures for UP (against SAP) amounted to Rs 11,481.12 crore and Rs 14,311.18 crore, respectively.

Also, it would be naïve or shortsighted on our part if we brush aside the role that demonetization played in farmers’ distress. I’ve been talking to farmers and hearing their plight…tragedies compounding for them, with the withdrawal of the old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes… The farmer couldn’t cope with the disaster heaped on him by that one move – demonetization!

I trace my roots to a small qasba in Uttar Pradesh and so I’m well aware of the ground realities to farmers and farm lands. Today, the situation is so insecure for the farmer that he is not even stocking up, as fear looms large of yet another bombshell from the sarkar of the day.

Yes, fears and insecurities and apprehensions loom large. And as the farmers’ protest continue, we could see a repeat of what took place last summer on the streets of Lutyens’ Delhi. Farmers and their families squatting here, in the national capital, clad or semi-clad, to focus on their fragile existence.

It’s about time to ask the farmer what we, the masses of this country, can do for him, to lessen his agony, to halt the untimely deaths! To begin with, each time you eat your meal – rotis and rice and daal – think of the farmer! And think hard how to help him out from the ongoing distress heaped on him by the rulers of the day.

Popular Front of India: THERE’S NO END TO THE DOUBLE STANDARDS!

With news coming of the ban on the Jharkhand unit of Popular Front of India (PFI) by Jharkhand government, leaders of important Muslim organisations have been expressing their outrage at this political move. In a joint statement several well-known academics and activists said: “PFI is a nationwide welfare and social organisation offering educational and social services all over the country and helping victims within the limits of the Indian Constitution and laws. It has been active in rehabilitation work from Tsunami victims of Port Blair to the earthquake victims of Kashmir…PFI is active in rehabilitation work in Jharkhand in addition to offering legal help to victims of mob lynching there. Earlier, allegations by the Central Government of PFI’s relations with ISIS were proved wrong. The apex court has rejected the allegations of PFI’s indulging in the so-called ‘Love Jihad’. Chief Ministers of Kerala and Karnataka have clarified that there are no proofs to support a ban on PFI.”

This ban also reeks of double standards. All possible Hindutva outfits and brigades who have been found indulging in violence and lynching and even molesting women, are left untouched. Why? Because of their proximity to the top brass in the establishment. In contrast, a minority forum or organization or a person can be targeted on any given alibi. ISIS is just one of those several alibis to settle or unsettle anybody with a Muslim name or surname or the so-called Muslim ‘connections.’

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