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Invisible Injustices - 89

Invisible Injustices - 89

As reported in the Indian Express, (“Will you tell me who I am”, by K. Satyanarayana 6th Sept 2018) the Hindutva organizations have begun the campaign of identifying “Indians and Others”, the latter referring to SCs, STs and OBCs. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has advised the satellite and TV channels to avoid using the term “Dalit” referring to the Scheduled Castes. The report concludes that all these are part of a larger agenda to create “one nation and one identity” namely India is for upper caste Hindus. We have already seen how the anti-cattle-slaughter laws went against the livelihood of the Dalits in our country by an imperceptible elimination of their much needed food and financial source. The hidden agenda clearly comes out in many ways that India is only for Indians meaning upper caste Hindus. Subtly and slowly the ‘others’ are edged out into oblivion. The “Hindu Rastra Project” has a multi-pronged approach. In this short write up I shall highlight how small and marginal farmers contribute to the elimination of the “Others”.

A survey on the situation of the agricultural households in India (NSS 70th 2013) also confirms the slow and subtle ways of eliminating the SCs, STs and OBCs who mostly depend on agriculture for their livelihood. Neglect of small and marginal farmers is another subtle way of eliminating the ‘others’. The survey shows clearly the deteriorating situation of the vast majority of the SCs, STs and OBCs who form 75.1% of the small and marginal farmers. Among the social groups 13.4% belonged to scheduled tribes, 16.3% scheduled castes, 45.4% other backward castes (OBC) making up to a total of 75.1 per cent.  Earlier they were untouchables; now they are the unwanted.

The survey revealed that 56% of the marginal landholders have no MGNREGA job cards and among them the SCs are the lowest job card holders. Up to 87% of the ration card holders among marginal landholding families did not receive the ration regularly and sufficiently. Denial of MGNREGA jobs and rations to vast majority of marginal landholding farmers, who belong to ‘Others’, is the most ingenious way of eliminating them slowly.  The smaller the landholdings, higher the dependency on wages and salaried employment forcing them indirectly to migrate out into cities and towns to seek off-farm jobs so that their land can slowly and stealthily be misappropriated. 

The survey showed that 52% of the farming households in the country were indebted, with different levels of indebtedness varying from 93% in Andhra Pradesh and 82.5% in Tamil Nadu to 37% in Chhattisgarh and 17.5% in Assam. The average amount of outstanding loan was highest among farmers in Kerala ( Rs.2,13,600) followed by Andhra Pradesh ( Rs.1,23,400) and Punjab ( Rs.1,19,500).

The survey revealed high dependence of the ‘Others’ on non-institutional sources of credit. Nearly 40% of all loans came from informal sources with 26% from moneylenders. Marginal farmers received only 15% of their credit requirement from government, cooperatives and banks while households belonging to medium and large farmers availed 79% of their credit. The discrimination between ‘Indians’ and ‘Others’ is very clear in the loan availability from government and other institutional sources.

Survey revealed low levels of awareness among the small and marginal farm households about government procurement operations at minimum support prices (MSP). Except for sugarcane, less than half of the households, which were aware about MSP, sold off their crops to agencies at prices lower than MSP. For instance, among households reporting sale of paddy crop, only 32% were aware of MSP and only 13.5% households sold to procurement agencies during July to December 2012.

Most of the farm households were found to be unaware of crop insurance schemes. Over 95% paddy and wheat growers and nearly 99% of sugarcane farmers did not insure their crops. The new technologies and guidance from research institutes still remain inaccessible to majority of the small and marginal farmers who are subtly included in the ‘Others’ and who are not to be included among the Indian citizens.

Concluding remarks

At all India level 85% of the farmers are small and marginal landholders unable to make a living out of their land holdings. Socially 75% of them are scheduled castes, tribals and other backward castes. Most of them are not given MGNREGA job cards or monthly rations or other government benefits entitled to them. Hence v ast majority of them are migrating to cities and towns to depend on scarcely available daily wages because labour supply too high compared to the demand.

According to the above mentioned survey, an agriculture household is one that gets a minimum Rs 3000 (gross income) per year or Rs 250 per month. In December 2014, Prime Minister Modi recommended 15000 rupees as minimum monthly salary to all government servants. The Finance Minister Mr. Jaitley raised the same to 18000 rupees in his speech on the implementation of 7th pay commission on 12th Sept 2018. The recommendation for the cabinet secretaries and others is to pay Rs 2,50,000 a month which is 14 times that of the lowest payment (Rs18,000) to the central government employees. The beneficiaries of the 7th pay commission include 47 lakh central government employees and 53 lakh pensioners including the defence personnel.

How can a government fix the minimum income of small and marginal farmer at Rs 250 per month while the same government fixed the minimum salary of government employee at Rs 18000 per month? The contrast in terms of payment between these two sets of citizens of the same country is 72 times (18000/250) per month. In India no one can have a human life with Rs 250 per month as we shall see further in this write up.

Based on the average prices in the present market the food cost alone comes to around 550 (500-600) rupees per day or 16,500 per month or about Rs 2,00,000 per year per family of five to six members. And the normal non-food expenditures amounts to minimum five times that of the food expenditures amounting to 10,00,000 rupees (Economics, by Samuelson and Nordhuas-1989). This ratio of 1:5 holds true with all the families which have only limited income and are trying to make both ends meet). Thus the total average food and non-food expenditures for a family of five to six members to have a decent human living at the present price level will be 12,00,000 per year. Only then a family of five to six can educate all its children up to college level at least; which means all their other necessary family expenditures have been fulfilled.

Practically no staunch Protagonists of Social Justice seem to be aware of this most essential everyday need of every human being in terms of hard cash. All are only talking about SOCIO-POLITICAL aspects of human life. That is why the farmers’ suicides (nearly three lakhs) are not taken up seriously by any of the social work organizations including political parties and religious organizations.

Now let us compare the annual incomes of the lowest grade government servant (Rs 18000x12 =2,16,000) and the small and marginal farmer (Rs 3000/year). The survival chance of the latter is only 0.25 per cent compared to his counterpart. That means most of the Scheduled Castes, Tribals and Other Backward Castes in India have only 0.25% survival chance.

A small and marginal farmer is born in debt, live in debt and die in debt. They are slave workers in their own land. They go hungry, poorly dressed, homeless, condemned to work like animals till death.  “India is for the upper castes only” is the subtle message transmitted by the promoters of the present government. The “Others” are to die like destitute. Earlier they were untouchable; now they are unwanted in the often mooted Rama Rajya.  

(The writer is a retired Professor of XIM, Bhubaneswar. Email: ktchandysj@gmail.com)

(Published on 15th October 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 42)