The farmers’ income will rise phenomenally; it will double by 2022. Thus spoke Prime Minister Narendra Modi, repeatedly, in the last three years of his tenure. But what has gone up remarkably is not their income, but the number of their suicides; the number of farmers killed in police firing; and the number of violent protests and agitations. Farmers’ protests are spreading like wild fire, exposing the hollowness of Modi government’s promises and proposals. Prices of agriculture produce are nose-diving. Repeated crop failures are pushing farmers deep into indebtedness. Slump in economic growth has drastically hit demand for agriculture produce, leaving them to rot in the open.
As furious protests rage on in Madhya Pradesh, farmers’ woes are common across the country. The demands for waiving of farm loans, hiking the minimum support price for agricultural produce and writing off pending electricity bills are not limited to the farming community of the Central Indian State. From the bare-chested farmers from Tamil Nadu who undertook a novel protest in Delhi to Maharashtra peasants who threw away farm produce on highways, the demands are same.
The latest protests bring out the contradictions and biases in Modi government’s approach to the issue. The Central government loosened its purse strings to U.P. farmers in waiving off their loans by sharing the State’s burden of about Rs. 36,000 crores. But it turned its back on the farmers from Tamil Nadu. Ironically the Southern State contributes to the Central tax kitty much more than what U.P. contributes. The only reason for this special favour for the Hindi heartland is that a BJP government has come to power in the State.
Peasants are agitated over the step-motherly treatment meted out to them compared with industry. There are industrialists who individually owe to public sector banks much more than what lakhs of farmers owe as loan. While the hugely defaulting industrialists are treated with kid gloves, farmers are dealt with an iron hand. It is unfair for a government, which promises ‘sab ka sath, sab ka vikas’, to show favouritism to some at the cost of others.
Farmers are also plagued by lack of minimum support price for their produce. Industrial products are sold at pre-determined prices, but farmers have no clue to what they will get once their crops reach the markets as prices of most produces fluctuate drastically. Unless the government takes measures to ensure minimum price for major farm produces, farmers’ woes will drag on endlessly. No amount of bragging about numerous schemes will help improve the situation.
The government which spends a lot of time and energy on throttling the media and choking the minorities should shift its focus to more urgent issues. The Prime Minister’s assertion that he welcomes constructive criticism will not carry conviction if his government is seen taking actions against independent media groups. The raids at places belonging to NDTV management smack of vendetta as the channel occupies a place in the shrinking space of liberal voice in broadcast media. The government and its agencies should stop acting with bias. By sowing the seeds of unrest across the nation, the government is digging its own grave.#(Published on 12th June 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 24)