Sunday, September 26, 2021

Farmers’ in distress

The country-wide distress of the farmers smitten by false assurances, lack of focus on agrarian sector and poor implementation of the announced policies related to farming is fast creating a churning within the country, which will have far reaching political consequences. Last month, when tens of thousands of farmers from different states of the country descended in Delhi to protest and make their voices be heard to those sitting in the highest echelons of power, a united opposition comprising the Congress, Left Parties, Aam Aadmi Party and several regional political formations including National Conference and Trinamool Congress were quick in capturing the ready-made platform to put their weight behind the struggles of the farmers. A combination of the two forces will deal a deadly blow to the BJP. The message is becoming louder that the BJP would have to pay through its nose for neglecting the 70 percent population of the country and instead pursuing policies that are pro-ultra-rich. The agrarian distress has been in progress since the 90s when India embarked on the road to liberalism without scientifically taking into account the rural land-mass. However, in its four and a half years of rule, the BJP has plunged the agricultural sector into complete disarray due to its poor agricultural policies, lack of government support in terms of loans, loan waivers and failure in reasonable fixation of minimum support prices. A ceiling on market prices does not ensure benefits to the farmers but allows the middle-men to continue to fleece the farmers. Farmers rallies and protests are being witnessed across the country in the last over two years, where thousands and even lakhs of farmers and agricultural labourers gather to force the government to pay heed to their long pending grievances but the latter has simply met their demands with a deaf ear. Farmers comprise a huge majority in the country and most of them have small landholdings and manage their existence with great difficulty due to warped policies that dis-favour the farmer and the agricultural sector. The insurance schemes for farmers have failed to deliver and they feel cheated because the insurance companies that are charging higher premiums deny them claims for crop failure or delay them to the extent that the farmers get more and more over-burdened by debts. While the government claims to have fixed Minimum Support Price, it appears to be focusing on market prices without bothering about the amount that the farmer is getting for his produce. Back to back droughts have further strained the agriculture sector with little or no relief from the government. Freebies might not be an ideal practice in an economic model but when a government inclined towards a lobby of crony capitalists plays an instrumental role in ensuring massive loan waivers for rich industrialists and corporate giants while ignoring the meagre loans of the farming class, it is an indication of the anti-farmer policies. During the BJP rule, the flip-flop on MNREGA and demonetization has also adversely hit the small and marginal farmers. If the farmer’s unions today are mobilizing their cadres and forging strong networks to add zest to their struggles and strength to their voice, the BJP government may need to look only inwards for reasons of the same. It is probable that the opposition may be seizing the occasion of farm distress to score brownie points or enlarge their own bases in the run up to Lok Sabha elections 2019. However, this cannot be a reason for ignoring the agrarian distress as simply a political gimmick. The farmers have been pushed to the wall and their distress is rebounding back in BJP’s face. The party will need to take the demands of the farmers seriously lest the agrarian distress recreates the history that the issue of corruption did in run up to 2014, much to BJP’s glee at that time. This time the beneficiary will not be BJP and as results of assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh have shown, this is becoming more than evident.