By Vijay Darda | 10-04-2017
The farmers in the country are in peril; government should protect and empower them
I want to appreciate Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath for waiving the farmers’ debt to the tune of Rs 36,000 crore in one stroke. The measure has benefitted 2.30 crore farmers of his state. He has fulfilled his election promise. Now, the question is why are not other states taking such a step? I would like to specially mention Maharashtra which witnesses the suicide of one or the other farmer everyday due to the debt burden. It is estimated that more than 30,000 farmers and agricultural labourers committed suicide in Maharashtra between 2009 and 2016.
Other states too are sailing in the same boat. The farmers there too are plagued with indebtedness. Of the 16.5 lakh farmers of Haryana, 15.36 lakh farmers are in debt. They have a cumulative debt of Rs 56,336 crore. There is a debt of Rs 63,000 crore on farmers in Punjab. In Rajasthan, there are 12.5 lakh indebted farmers. Now, the question arises that when the situation is so bad, why are the Central and State Governments not looking for the way to get the farmers rid of their debt burden? In the Rajya Sabha, I raised this question many times and cited facts and figures to highlight the pitiable condition of the farmers in Maharashtra and other states in the country. I would like to remind that in the year 2008, when Dr Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister, the debt of farmers to the tune of Rs 71,000 crore was waived across the country. Why are Modi government and Maharashtra Government along with the BJP governments of other states of the country not taking any major decision in this matter? Especially in Maharashtra, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis should take the decision of immediate debt waiver.
Let’s look at some data which makes it clear what attitude the governments have towards farmers. As per the official figures, there are 11.88 crore farmers who cultivate their land in this country. Most of them have less than 2 acres of land. Almost 14.4 crore people work with these farmers. They are called agricultural labourers whose livelihood is directly related to farming. That is, about 26 crore people are getting employment from agriculture and the contribution of agriculture to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) is 14 per cent. On the contrary, if you take a look at the industries, then only 3 crore people are employed, but the industry is the beneficiary of government’s favour. Seeing the debt figure on farmers across the country, it is about 12.6 lakh crore. You would be surprised to know that between the financial years 2013 and 2016, the industrialists of the country were given a tax waiver of Rs 17.15 lakh crore. I am not against industries being promoted or granted tax waiver. But the question is ‘why only the industrialists should enjoy and farmers should continue to commit suicide?’
Some people question the necessity for loan waiver, saying what problem can it solve? Farmers will again take a loan, and the cycle will continue! I believe that if a patient is groaning with severe pain, he should be given a pain-killer pill first and then the wound should be treated. Compared to other countries in the world, our farmers are in a constant state of poverty. If you consider the condition of agriculture in countries like America, Australia, New Zealand and Israel, it is considered a matter of pride to do farming. The governments give a lot of subsidies to the farmers. Farming has got the status of industry there. What is the situation in our country is not hidden from anyone.
Our governments have never even tried to make the farmers modern. Most of our farmers still suffer from a shortage of modern farming tools, good manure and quality seeds. There is huge black marketing of manure. And who knows better than farmers the way the market is flooded with spurious manure and seeds? When the seeds themselves are spurious what crop can they yield? There are no means of irrigation, so farmers depend on the vagaries of nature. During Indira Gandhi’s prime ministership, large canals were built in different parts of the country, most of which are now useless.
The scandals that have emerged in recent years regarding new irrigation tools have created apprehensions. In 2012, it emerged in Maharashtra that a huge sum of Rs 70,000 crore was spent to strengthen the irrigation system in one decade, but the coverage of the irrigated land increased by only 0.1 per cent. Many big names are involved in this scam. We have fixed the purchase price of the crops but farmers do not get fair prices. A caucus of middlemen is dominant in the market that does not allow any plan to succeed.
One reason is that the problem of farmers has become a victim of politics. Political parties pay attention to farmers’ problems only at the time of election. In fact, we have to strictly ensure transparency in cases related to farmers and see to it that scandal-tainted get immediate punishment. It is also necessary to construct small ponds at village level and take care of old ponds. I would like to commend Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who has done excellent work to increase the water storage capacity under the Jalayukt Shivar Yojna.
Because if the rainwater is swept away, where will the water for the crop come in summer days? Along with this, his initiative in maintaining and improving the quality of soil is also very commendable. I also appreciate the work done by former minister Amrish Patel in the interest of farmers or the way Aamir Khan has raised the issue of farmers. My candid opinion is that to improve the status of farmers of this country, the Central government should immediately implement the report of the Swaminathan Committee. To overcome the difficulties of farmers, all political parties will have to rise above narrow concerns of politics and work for the farmers’ welfare.
Before I conclude…
It was reassuring to read the news that Indian Railways has cancelled licences of 16 food contractors and put them on black list. These contractors were not serving good and fresh food to the passengers. In fact, Indian Railways is infamous for the poor quality of food served on trains. In recent years, the campaign has been started to improve the quality. But strict steps need to be taken to mend the ways of the contractors who are inured to serve poor quality food since decades! It is expected that at least in respect of food and cleanliness, the Indian Railways should enhance the image of India!