Who champions the farming sector?
Agriculture is a highly sensitive subject for those who have boundless sensitivity. And also, agriculture is still the bugbear to the average Indian farmer. We in the South read about stories of Punjab and Haryana as breadbaskets of the country. But when one reads closely, the stories that come out regularly, one has to be shocked and surprised of the spate of farmers suicides, still taking place there. Amarinder Singh government has done well by wiping off farmers debts.
Yesterday when we read that here are still grim stories of three generation suicides, farm debt suicides, one gets stunned by the severity of the tragedy.
So, we have to ask ourselves in total helplessness when will Indian agriculture will be a happy field?
Punjab tops in agricultural productivity. Also in rice production. Yet, there, the farmers’ suicides continue. Sadly, it is said that three farmers a day are committing suicides. Except once, when Andhra Pradesh was a top rice contributor, in 2010-11, 98% of Punjab agricultural land under irrigation, why this tragedy?
This needs to be explained and solutions explored, yet what we today?
Has any government functionary talks of agrarian distress?
These questions would haunt the ruling regime, though there won’t be any lauder voice. It is a pity, a great pity indeed jigeu. After the BJP came to power, the agri sector that nurtures the largest concentration of people who thrive on farming for their livelihood seems to have been taken for granted and not much we hear about what is going on in this vitally important economic sector. In the Southern states of course there is much about to talk about this sector with the Southern states have their own limited and yet special sorts of problems.
In Tamil Nadu where the state is so dependent on the Cauvery River for its irrigation needs that are becoming more and more dependent upon this one source and so the state’s politics almost revolves around the one and only source of irrigation.
So, politics too has become too polarised around this major river for the state for its critical agricultural sector. Lately, the Cauvery delta geography has also become a battle ground for some other issues like methane discovery, lying of telecom towers etc.
Even now the last mile river water distribution is a contentious issue. As far as the national level importance of the Cauvery river front is a much more emotional issue with the TN farmers taking out farmers rally all the way to Delhi and camping there for days together and yet they didn’t h get a personal hearing from the Prime Minister and this is a recurring grievance.
So, the only satte, it seems that is likely to give a headache for the ruling party at the Centre is likely to be Tamil Nadu. In this aspect, may be TN would be like the West Bengal ruling party, Trinamul Congress and may be there could a new focal point for the next election and when the next round of alliance building could see a new focus, the disgruntled states not necessarily, the geographical divisions like and the South but ,may be on the basis of new disgruntlements arising out of specific ground level realities.
Who knows, even the n North Eastern states like Assam and other areas where issues like NRC could become a centre of gravity, so to say. Agriculture is no more a subject where you can cite statistics like farmers’ suicides. A subject on which we have dwelt too long and too much in detail and farm loans and farm debts and distress no more commands urban attention. In the urban, mostly mainstream English newspapers we hardly read any news that is substantial and that is really about the ground level realities of actual people living there.
More and more rural realities are brushed aside and the mainstream media is driven by entertainment and other generation-specific non-rural and non-livelihood issues. Fashions and films and even such topics like prizes and awards for business people and expensive venues, all often sponsored by corporate houses with an eye on placidity and full-page ads cover most newspaper coverages.
Also, we seem to live at a time when fear, fear of authority is very widespread and so we see more news and events that are diversionary and why even focused on the powerful leaders and their visages. The Indian villages were once praised as self-governing republics and self-sufficiency. Even the British rulers who came to conquer India by force or t ricks saw the Indian villages as enlightened and towards these ends they tried to abolish evil social practices like sati and other social evils like women’s degradation and implemented many progressive social reforms. But now we hear the Prime Minister himself talks of religion and caste, cows and cow vigilantism and om etc. The PM had also spoken about animal husbandry and here too he was using religious symbolism and cow protection is only one excuse in all this talk of cow, protecting cow etc.
The Lok Sabha Speaker spoke about the Brahmin community in Rajasthan and such talks by those occupying high Constitutional office try to, it seems to take the country not forward but the opposite!
Also we seem not to talk of many pending development issues that cry for attention like Panchayat Raj and periodic elections to the local governments and also the deep spread of corruption and the need to introduce many other progressive measures like anti-corruption measures. Even the latest announcement of crop insurance schemes seems too patchy and much needs to be done by way of close implementation. So too the most timely promises like the farm loam waiver schemes. How many states have befitted.
We talked to farmers in some states.
Even in Tamil Nadu the people are dismissing these promises as only election-time gimmicks and anyway, not many have got the benefits. Mr.Devinder Sharma, the very popular farm columnist notes (Deccan Herald, September, 2019)” the government has in fact gone back on its electoral promise of waiving all outstanding farm loans taken from co-operative, nationalised and private banks as well as from private money lenders. This would have entailed and expenditure of close to Rs.90, 000 crore. This state government (Punjab) said it didn’t have!”
On the other hand, the columnist also warns. He says that “if the death toll (in the state) so far in 2019, on an average, three farmers are ending lives every day. This is happening at a time when Punjab has been bestowed with Krishi Karman award for being the best performing state in rice production”.
In fact, this is also the sort of government support being given as a publicity drive in other states like TN also.
We also have the member of the neeti aayog, the member in charge of the agri sector, who says that even if we don’t aim for rice and wheat targets, dont worry!
Unfortunately, there is no two way traffic of ideas or data or any publicity from the government in mainstream press, why even in specific specialist press so that the citizens have way of knowing the exact information of the reliable data.
Agriculture is a subject that is very uninteresting; it doesn’t have any high priority in the way of public attention of publicity either.