Following the tragic deaths of farmers who died in police firing in Madhya Pradesh and the subsequent violent protests in the state, other states in the last few days, farmers in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh have been in the agitation mode. In each state, farmers have specific issues .But there is a larger point in each state. Neither the government (state or central) nor political party (whether in power or out of it) really know how to address the problems plaguing the agriculture sector and farmers.
Anju Grover for Indian Currents talked to Chief Advisor to consortium of Indian Farmers Association, P Chengal Reddy. He maintained that farmers are extremely agitated by the false promises of the Modi government as it did not fulfil the promises made in the BJP manifesto in 2014 of providing relief to farmers and implementing Swaminathan report.
IC: The agitation by farmers in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh who have been demanding better prices for their produce and loan waiver, has shaken the nation as these farmers have resorted to different ways to impress upon their point. Your comments.
Chengal Reddy : From Manmohan Singh and Modi government, these governments have been focusing on service and industrial sector and ignoring farming sector. A National Commission for farmers was constituted in mid 2000s and M S Swaminathan gave an outstanding report on rejuvenation of agriculture sector. The Congress party kept the report in cold storage. One or two meetings were held. In 2014, Modi promised to implement Swaminathan committee report. The BJP manifesto clearly stated that minimum support price plus 50 per cent besides other promises and link MNREGA with agriculture. In the last months, PM Modi has become totally anti farmer. The biggest disappointment came in February 2015 when the government told the Supreme Court that it cannot give minimum support price as was promised. After a couple of months, he directed Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chauhan and Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh not to give bonus of Rs 200 which they were giving to wheat and rice farmers in their states. He appointed agriculture minister who does not understand the farmers issue at all. Modi did not care to implement the APMC reforms in the BJP run states. He went on breaking all the promises which are on record. The demonization has virtually destroyed the agriculture economy. Farmers incurred huge losses in the last six months due to it. The final straw came when Modi announced loan waiver during the UP election campaign. He did it for votes and did not direct the BJP run states to follow the suit.
IC: So your charge is that Modi’s announcement of loan waiver during the UP election campaigning and that raised the hopes of farmers in other states and hence they are agitating.
The anger and frustration of farmers is against PM Modi only. He is responsible for the sorry state of affairs for farmers. Modi purposely included loan waiver in the national manifesto of the BJP in the 2014 general election.
IC: The fact is that an amendment in the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee Act has to be done by the state government then why are BJP run state governments not amending it.
The traders are a powerful community and they are the backbone of the BJP and hence won’t allow the BJP run state governments to do so.
IC: The government says that there is a bumper production. Hence farmers are seeing huge price decline. Your Comments.
The government’s minimum support price (MSP) is supposed to help farmers if prices go below MSP and procure agriculture produce. When there is a bumper production, is it not the responsibility of the government to procure agriculture produce. The government went on importing oilseeds and pulses although there was bumper production and did not do anything to procure it from farmers. They want us (farmers) to produce and perish it. If we farmers declare 50 percent crop holiday, do you think the government can import foodgrains sufficient for the country? Let me tell you that this country cannot afford ten day food riots. Nobody in Delhi seems to realize. Farmers are extremely unhappy and hence they will go on fighting.
IC: Is loan waiver an answer to the current farmers’ crisis?
In the last two decades, farmers had never got profitable price. In every state and every farmer has suffered three or four crop losses. Droughts, floods and low prices have badly hit farmers in our country. We have become permanent debt slaves.
IC: So what you are saying is that better price and not loan waiver is a solution?
Yes. There is no political will to do anything.
IC: What is the way out to end farmers’ crisis?
PM Modi should immediately convene an all party meeting and invite farmers to come. He should assure them that a solution to this problem will be found out in 30-45 days’ time. We do not expect results overnight but PM should start finding long term solution to this problem. Otherwise, we will be compelled to accelerate our agitation.#(Published on 12th June 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 24)