By Vijay Darda | 24-12-2018
Loan waiver is welcome but an overall policy is needed to end the problems faced by the farmers
Congress president Rahul Gandhi who had held out a pre-election promise to the electorate in three states, fulfilled the same soon after winning the elections. Loans of farmers in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan were waived. The Congress has once again proved that it is the only genuine sympathiser of farmers. The Congress has complete understanding of the misery of the farmers. Rahul Gandhi has also announced that the loan taken by all the farmers of the country will be waived in 2019. Congress had taken such a step before in 2008 when Manmohan Singh was the prime minister. He had waived debt amounting to Rs. 65,000 crore. The farmers’ debt has been waived in BJP-ruled states like Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, but the situation is not getting any better.
The latest figures show that at present, farmers across the country owe the government debt of about Rs. 12.60 lakh crore. If the Congress comes to power this debt will be waived off but it will only give temporary relief to the farmers. The question is: Is the loan waiver the permanent solution to the varied problems faced by farmers? The circumstances of the last two decades tell us that loan waiver takes place but it does not solve the problems of the farmers. Sometime it is drought that destroys crop or sometime it is the flood that wipes out standing crop. They do not get the remunerative prices for the crops they grow. Farmers mostly incur losses. So they go on taking loan again and again. In this way, they are trapped in debt.
The reality is that the government loan is sometimes waived but the loan the farmers take from the moneylenders, always remains intact. This stress caused by debt proves to be inimical to the interests of the farmers and makes their life miserable. When the stress of debt becomes unbearable, the farmer commits suicide. His entire family is devastated. The cases of farmers’ suicides are continuously rising. It is very difficult to tell exactly how many farmers have committed suicide in recent years, as there is no latest data available from the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB). According to the NCRB, between 1995 and 2014, 2,96,438 farmers committed suicide in the country, but experts say that actual figures can be many times more.
I raised this issue in the Parliament several times during my 18-year parliamentary tenure and discussed the condition of farmers and possible remedies. Some remedies were acted upon and came into effect but many suggestions were not implemented. Problems will not be solved by sundry measures. Efforts should be made from every side. I have always said that unless the status of industry is given to agriculture, condition will not improve. To set up an industry, governments give land at affordable rates, provide electricity, give subsidies and grant tax exemption. It provides them capital through loan but nothing is given to the farmers! Thousands of farmers have committed suicide. The debt owed by the farmers is as much as the debt owed by a handful of industrialists. Has any industrialist ever committed suicide? You will be surprised to know that just 2 per cent of industrialists are mopping up the wealth of the whole country while the farmers are distressed by small loans and are committing suicide.
I am a resident of Vidarbha region of Maharashtra where most farmers have committed suicide. I know and feel their pain. Rahul Gandhi is paying attention to the problems of farmers, so I also wrote a detailed letter to him. That letter mentions the entire plan to solve the problems of farmers. I believe the report of the M S Swaminathan Committee should be fully implemented. It is very important that the collective farming in India should be started. In developed countries, a large number of farmers form a cluster of land together. It is very convenient for farmers. I am of the opinion that the small and middle-class farmers should be given Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 2,000 per month so that they can farm their field. Of this, 25 or 50 per cent of the funds be given by state governments and the balance should be given by the Centre. If farmers get this kind of financial assistance, they will no longer need loans. Along with this, fertilisers and high quality seeds should be provided at affordable rates. Right now the low quality fertilisers and poor seed varieties are being sold in the market, which the farmers have to bear the brunt of. There should be proper arrangement to store farmers’ produce in the warehouse or cold storage and of course, sales and marketing facility should be there too. There should be well planned marketing. When I hear that the rains ruined thousands of tonnes of grains, I feel greatly pained.
In the areas where the crop is damaged due to vagaries of nature, farmers should also get proper compensation. If we make an all-round effort, the condition of the farmers of the country will improve. In fact, we need to create a condition where our farmers need not borrow from anyone. It will make them happy and prosperous.
While proving itself as a sympathiser of the farmers, the Congress has waived their loans in three states. Rahul Gandhi has said that the debt of all the farmers in the country will be waived in 2019. This is a commendable step but there is a need to create better condition to solve the problems of farmers so that they do not need to borrow from anyone.