The father of India’s green revolution, M.S. Swaminathan is right in saying that India cannot eradicate poverty without tackling the woes of its farmers, who form at least 50 percent of the population.
This has come further into light ever since tens of thousands of Maharashtra’s farmers marched from Nashik to Mumbai to encircle the assembly and press for their demands. The farmers’ demands are not a lot but things that they had been requesting for a while now, which include an increase in Minimum Support Price (MSP) for crops, loan waiver, forest rights, procurement and more.
Farmers aged up to 65 have been marching day and night to reach the financial capital in order to place their demands in front of the Assembly. The morcha that began in Nashik on March 6, had reached Mumbai on March Sunday, March 12. “The government is merely pretending to fulfil its promises. This time it is now or never,” said one of the organisers, Ajit Ambavale, general secretary of the Kisan Sabha to The Wire.
The march covers various parts of Maharashtra such as Marathwada, Raigad and Vidarbha and most of the protesters are from Adivasi communities.
In the recent Census report by the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation had said that groundwater still accounts for the lion’s share of 94.5 percent of all the minor irrigation schemes in the country. It added that there is a need to decrease farmers’ dependence on groundwater to reduce the depletion of it.
The census found that the irrigation potential created and utilised from groundwater schemes had increased while irrigation potential created and utilised from surface water schemes declined. This report had come right after the farmers two-day protest in New Delhi on November 20, 2017, under the banner of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) demanding “better prices for their produce and complete freedom from debt”.
Around 184 farmer groups from across states such as Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, and Telangana formed the umbrella of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) and participated in the protest walk, then. Yogendra Yadav, the national president of Swaraj India political party and a member of the Swaraj Abhiyan, was at the front of the march from the Ramlila Maidan till Parliament Street for the ‘Kisan Mukti Sansad’.
The recent protest during the start of the month and in the late 2017, stemmed from different issues that the farmers have been facing for the past few years which include drought that has hit different parts across the country, indebtedness, no special waivers for farmers which form a part of the major agrarian crisis gripping India. The Swaminathan Committee had recommended a report with some measures for the central government to undertake in order avert the crisis however it remains overlooked in terms of execution for almost 12 years, now.
The farmer problems started garnering attention by the government and the judiciary when the farmer suicide rate in the country started growing multifold which led to the Centre informing the Supreme Court on May 2nd that despite a multi-pronged approach to improve income and social security of farmers, over 12,000 suicides were reported in the agricultural sector every year since 2013.
The Centre gave statistics on suicides in the farming sector and compared it with the total number of suicides in India. “A total of 12,602 persons involved in the farming sector — 8,007 farmers-cultivators and 4,595 agricultural labourers – committed suicide during 2015, accounting for 9.4% of total suicide victims (133,623) in the country,” the Centre said.
The alarming farmers’ suicide rate in the country has had a major impact in taking this situation firmly ahead as there are various contributing factors apart from droughts affected areas. Many farmers are stricken with poverty because they are indebted to the landowners with huge amounts which the farmers might either take for personal reasons such as children’s marriage or for the purchase of farming equipments.
The demonetisation policy which was introduced by the Narendra Modi government in 2016 also crippled the farming community which was largely determined by the cash economy. The policy came into action at a time when the farmers were looking forward to a season of benefit as they had a good monsoon after two successive years of drought and failed crops. The timing for the policy was deplorable for the farmers as it was implemented at a time when the farmers needed cash flow to be the most accessible, during the November harvest season.
The hasty rollout of the GST has only added to their woes.
Huge food grain wastage is a part of the myriad supply chain that is followed in India which results in two problems- (1) Wastage of Food due to poor storage facilities and (2) Wastage of money due to lack of storage facilities. Crop storage is becoming a huge problem which is leading to heavy losses to be borne by farmers. Farmers end up getting a much lower amount for the crops they have sown than what they actually deserve.
In a country like India, where agriculture is considered to be the backbone of the economy with nearly 58 percent of the population dependant on the occupation, the agrarian crisis is a concern of paramount importance.