Why are our farmers giving up on life?
Nagpur: While,we in Nagpur, dream of and plan for our ‘metro’ ( whether needed or not) and our planned status as ‘smart city’ less than 100 kilometers all round us, our food growers are dying like nine pins. Summer is not yet upon us in its full extremity and already 188 famine driven farmers of Vidarbha have committed suicide. Or died of broken dreams and shattered lives. Perhaps, that would be a better description?
If we care to remember last monsoon was a deficient one in many parts of Vidarbha and Maharashtra as a whole. To add to the cruel vagaries of nature, while it did not rain when it should have we had no just unseasonal rains but hail storms recently.
These conditions have caused such havoc in our rural hinterlands that affected people are just giving up.
The farmer suicide toll has reached to 184 in 2015 in Vidarbha region alone according to a press release by Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti. They say farmers were very disappointed over no mention of farm loan waiver and higher Minimum Support Price (MSP) in PM Modi’s “Mann Ki Baat” programme, as promised in last election
I spoke to well known farmer leader from Yeotmal area, Wamanrao Chatap about the cause of the suicides that just won’t abate and these shocking realities came out:
He said there are three factors that are causing such misery to the farmer –
First and foremost, as can be expressed best in Marathi – “bhav nahi, bachat sampli”. Not getting the realistic price they should, and savings are over. This year, prices of most agricultural produce has hit rock bottom.
Cotton – proposed price of State Government 6,505 per quintal
Minimum support price granted by Central Govt 4050
Deficit – 2455
Paddy – proposed price by state govt 2770
MSP of Central Govt 1360
Deficit – 1410
Soyabean – proposed price by state govt 3995
MSP of Central Govt 2560
Deficit – 1435
As we can see, farm produce has been sold far below cost price in all major crops. And we still talk of subsidizing the farmer? The blunt truth is that the already impoverished farmer subsidizes the nation.
As soon as the Modi Government had assumed power at the Centre, the Swaminathan Iyer proposal had been approved by Parliament and a resolution passed that farm produce MUST be priced at Expenses + 50%. If you look at above figures what cruel irony is this? Forget 50% over and above expenses, even the cost of inputs and labour has not been met in the ‘support price’. Who is it supporting really?
2. No capital loans are available to farmers for non agricultural expenses like Education of children, weddings, buidling of cattle sheds, homes etc. Chatap says that just as after the 2nd World War, the winning nations had set aside a fund to re develop the losing nations which had been completely destroyed – like Japan and Germany ( which had been divided too) a Martial plan had been set up. Such a plan is needed to uplift farmers living in rural India to ensure they continue farming and do not end up in cities living in miserable slums and hovels – their children misfits there and often turning to crime.
3. The late and scanty rains last year had led to farmers having to go in for re sowing a 2nd or even 3rd time. (Called ‘dobar perni’ in Marathi). This added to his costs and his woes right from the beginning of the Kharif season and at the end of it, he got less price for it compared to last year even.
This underscores the urgent need for irrigation facilities in Vidarbha where the backlog is maximum inflicting maximum cruelty on our area. Rs. 7000 crores is our irrigation back log and there is no sign that it is going to compensated. It is impossible to do so given the financial condition of both the State and Central governments which have come up with deficit budgets.
In fact so dire are the state’s finances that the Rs. 7000 crore Relief fund declared by C.M. Fadnavis at the Nagpur Winter session with such fan fare hasn’t been paid up yet. State government had earmarked Rs. 2000 cr and Centre had granted another 2000. Rs. 3000 crores is still pending.
The Kharif crop results in Vidarbha has shown that large tracts have had less than 50 paisa harvest. Rabi figures are yet to come out and are sure to be as dismal and disappointing.
SITUATION IN MARATHWADA EVEN WORSE
If we think Vidarbha farmers are worse hit, we cannot even imagine the straits of the Marathwada farmer. Rains were so scarce there, that right since Feb end – March cattle have begun dying for lack of fodder. On top of that the state government suddenly came up with a ban on beef. It has not announced any ‘gokuldham’ scheme for feeding of redundant cattle or arranged for extra fodder that will be needed if animals cannot be slaughtered.
As March is ending the vagaries of the weather are getting more uncertain leading to speculation that monsoons will suffer again this year.
We are soon approaching the time when we would have killed off all our farmers – or at least ‘killed’ the desire to farm in them.
But here again, we have tied his hands. A farmer in India is “not allowed” to come to 0 acre of land, i.e. he is not permitted to sell all his land or make it non agricultural.
But when the Government or some mega industry needs land, there are no compunctions in taking away even the most fertile and irrigated lands. Not just agri land, forest lands are being taken too leading to animal – man confrontation in many border areas. Border of forest and civilization, that is. Not just cattle are being killed, women and children too become easy targets.
What kind of torture is this – we neither allow farmers to farm nor give up their lands? It is this attitude of immense neglect that is forcing the farmer to follow the third option: kill himself, hoping he is NOT born again into this community in his next birth.
CONDITION SAME ALL OVER THE COUNTRY
It is actually not just Vidarbha or Maharashtra. You look at West Bengal, you look at Haryana , you look at Rajasthan or you look at new state Telengana. The situation is the same everywhere…
No matter which political party is ruling, fate of farmers does not change. They only play the blame game with each other – BJP blaming Congress, BJP blaming Mamta’s Trinamool, Congress blaming TRS, Modi blaming Pawar and Raj Thakeray going to the extent of telling farmers:
Kill those who kill you.
Really – where should the farmer begin?