Political ploy


The centre does not appear to be serious in tackling the agrarian crisis facing the farmers in the country. Farmers had even resorted to strikes in different parts of the country to air their plight to no avail. Rather union agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh had drawn flak on his comments that “farmers are resorting to cheap tactics for gaining publicity”. He had gone to the extent of describing the farmers’ strike as “farming fraternity resorting to unusual deeds to attract media attention”. It is unfortunate that instead of sparing a serious thought for the farmers, who had been suffering losses due to demonetisation and post-Goods and Services Tax (GST) implementation the government chose to ignore their plight. Post-demonetisation, the agriculture and rural economies have suffered to such an extent that the markets have not recovered so far. The promises made to the farmers by the NDA before the 2014 general elections are yet to be fulfilled. The bad loans of the farmers are yet to be taken up even for discussion by the rulers at New Delhi and elsewhere in the states. The states have been asked to look inward and generate their own resources if they want to write off the loans of the farmers, which were only Rs 38,000 crores at that time. But the NDA-government chose to pump five times or more money for remission of loans of a dozen corporate houses. The government has injected more than Rs 1.71 lakh crores for taking care of the corporate houses, which were in red due to bad loans and generating huge NPAs. The reports of farmers committing suicides for not being able to repay loans to the banks did not have any serious impact on the rulers. The powers that be have turned a deaf ear to the angry voices of the farmers in the country. Sure the government has recently cleared an increase in the Minimum Support Prices (MSPs) for the kharif summer crops but it appears to be more political ploy to hoodwink the farmers of the country instead of extending benefits to them for their hard labour put in the agricultural fields. In fact, it has been observed that in the past over 70 years of Independence, such announcements have only benefitted the politicians and not the farming fraternity. This is mainly because of the reason that these announcements are made on the eve of general elections to Lok Sabha or Legislative Assemblies and the hike in MSPs is meagre or far below the expectations or the cost price incurred by the farmers on the crops during different seasons. The MSPs have always ignored the losses incurred by the farmers in agricultural operations across the country. Their concerns have also not found any serious takers from the government despite real time estimates of the Commission for Agriculture Costs and Prices (CACP), which have recommended MSPs at least 150% higher than the costs incurred on sowing of crops. It is also worth noting that these announcements will add up to Rs 15,000 crore of expenditure on the part of the centre compared to Rs 1.5 lakh crore collected as premium from the farmers for providing crop insurances, taxes on diesel and GST on farm equipments. The farmers have every reason to be angry and have every right to agitate against the policies of the central government particularly during the past four years. The demonetisation of high value currency notes and implementation of GST has already played havoc with the rural and agricultural economy of the country. In the last two years, more than a score of farmers have been killed in police firing incidents in central India. The agitation was fuelled by falling prices of farm produce and in support of hike in MSPs because they were not even getting return of their investment in term of money and loans availed from the money-lenders and banking institutions. Most of the agriculture produce was selling at prices lower than the MSPs. Since the middlemen form the base of the BJP in urban and semi-urban areas, the market intervention of the government does not extend benefits to the farmers. The middlemen have never been eliminated by the successive governments in the past seven decades due to vested interests on both sides. The ultimate sufferer has been the farm worker and the farmers himself.