Sunday, October 22, 2017
NEW DELHI: Loud promises for the farmers are the mainstay of all election campaigns with Prime Minister Narendra Modi raising the decibles before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections to paint a farmers utopia where all loans will be waived, and the radical recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission implemented. In three years, India has been witnessing some of the biggest farmer stirs that have paralysed states even as these go unreported in the media.
So much so that Yogi Adityanatha who came to power after massive agrarian protests in different parts of the country, immediately announced a loan waiver and a budget for the farmers. But as agriculture expert and journalist Devinder Sharma told The Citizen, the list announced by the state government now has touched the lowest mark, with loan waiver cheques being issued for rupee one, 90 paisa, and now nine paisa.This is against the Rs one lakh per farmer loan waiver promised.
And this after a recent study by the Uttar Pradesh Agriculture Department found that the average farmers family in the state today was incurring a loss of Rs 1307 per month, Sharma pointed out. That they were in the negative. Besides, as he said that while the average daily take home of a labourer in UP is Rs 300, the farmer earns only Rs 164 a day.
Promises thus, are tokens not to be realised. And as Sharma added, the effort of the government remains to take over the agricultural land by pushing out the farmers, and to keep the food prices low for the city dwellers. The result is that the farmers are at the receiving end of the stick, he said, and are running into high debts with the figures being further added to by crop failure, poor monsoons, drought, floods that occur as part of the regular cycle,
It took huge protests across Rajasthan for several days to push the state government under Vasundhra Raje Scindia towards an agreement. Three days of hard negotiations and the kisan organisations walked away with victory in hand. Sharma said that even though the government had agreed to waive loans of Rs 50000 per farmer, this had been left to a Committee to resolve, All India Kisan Sabha chief Hannan Mollah whose organisation has been active across the country told The Citizen that this was the first agreement, but that he was not particularly optimistic that the BJP government will follow through.
As Mollah said that while tactically the organisations agreed as it was a clear victory, with the state government also announcing Rs20000 crores for the farmers no one was really convinced that the game of prevarication would not continue. As he pointed out, the BJP government in Maharashtra had also refused to listen to the farmers until lakhs strong protests took over Nasik, blocked the roads, and disrupted supplies. The state government rushed to resolve the issue after 21 days, took the leaders for talks to Mumbai, hammered out an agreement that has still not been implemented. The stir has started again, and is expected to build up rapidly.
Mollah said that the struggle has intensified and the farmer organisations have now come under two broad fronts. The Kisan Sabha is with both “as we have decided to be with the farmers come what may.” These are the Rashtirya Kisan Mahasangh of about 60 farmer organisations that have been involved in small and large protests, and started with the all India rasta roko call in June that was successful, followed by the gherao of Niti Udyog, as well as the protests in the states. The second is the All India Sangharsh Coordination Committee that has now started farmers yatras all over the country. Both fronts are demanding the implementation of the Swaminathan Commission report as well and share organisations.
The Madhya Pradesh stir in which several farmers were killed in police firing, Tamil Nadu where drought impacted farmers have been committing suicide even as many are sitting at Jantar Mantar with not a word of assurance from the government, Rajasthan where other sections came out in large support of the farmers now, Maharashtra where the farmers are launching a fresh and more intense agitation, Punjab where suicides continue unabated as the government has still to announce its loan waiver decisions, Haryana where the farming community has been on the streets as well---will all consolidate with a march to Parliament in November, and a mammoth rally at Ramlila grounds.
As Mollah said, this agitation will not end as the governments are not going to honour even what they commit.