‘They are Cowards’

From Bengal to Maharashtra farmers as reason fight a hopeless situation. Time and again, farmers are made the scapegoats for an economy that provides fewer and fewer remedies to the ailing agrarian community. For years the issue of farmers committing suicide has been a matter of serious concern. ‘There is nothing more important than the life of the farmer’. That was Prime Minister Modi in parliament. It sounds fine and emotional. But all his efforts as Prime Minister are aimed at creating more and more unequal society, poverty, hunger, jobless growth, destroying everything that is egalitarian and promote ruthlessness and aggressiveness in enriching the socially, politically and economically dominant class. All are talking about the nightmare Indian peasants are experiencing round the season. And yet nothing is changing for the better. All are too eager to pay lip service to farmers. But lip service cannot change the ground reality.

Dozens of poverty-stricken, debt-laden peasants have killed themselves in the past two months after heavy downpours flattened rice, wheat and potato crops. The peasants, middle and poor peasants, in the main, are crying, they are in distress. But Om Prakash Dhankar, Chief of Bharatiya Janata Party’s peasant wing, has the audacity to say that those who commit suicide are cowards. True, they are not brave manipulators like Dhankar. They are so marginalised, both socially and economically, that they have forgotten to assert themselves even in crisis conditions. They have forgotten to think of change. In their world of day and night there is no optimism, it is pessimism all they way. For them another world is not possible, all avenues are closed. Not that all farm suicides are reported in the mainstream media. In truth suicide is now endemic among poor peasants who are steadily losing land and control over traditional agricultural practice. Market-driven farming compels them to borrow money at exorbitant rates, staking everything on the outcome of a single crop, with no farm insurance. Modi is now asking all parties, to come together to find a solution to this problem. Ludicrously enough, he pretends as if he doesn’t know where they have gone wrong and what are the deficiencies in the system that results in continuing agony in rural India.

The Modis and their critics as well know well how pro-agrarian policy has been changed to pro-industrial during the last 15 years, at a neck-breaking pace. And Modi’s one-year-old administration has shown more ruthlessness in executing pro-industrialist plan than the previous regimes.

Agriculture is not their area of priority. Their concern is about sugar barons, not sugar-cane growers who commit suicide. Heaven will not fall if Ambanis and Adanis don’t get enough land to expand their industrial empire. But heaven definitely crumbles in a farmer’s house when there is a suicide.

Fidel Castro’s Cuba braved American blockade and prospered without Coca Cola and Terylene. But the Modis cannot think of an alternative development model in defiance of foreign investment. For the government it doesn’t matter whether its colour is green or saffron—industry is the holy cow. Strangely, even for the political left it looks equally so. They too lack any agrarian policy of their own, particularly in the changed context. They too are in favour of aping the ways of powers that be. They just react to spontaneity. Essentially they are no better. They think they have nothing to do other than periodically issuing harmless statements against neo-liberal policies and that too in a vague manner.

Even the far left that concretely raised the Indian agrarian question in the ’70s while advocating a new kind of democratic revolution with agrarian revolution as the axis seems to have lost their track in the middle. It is not known whether they still believe in their old hypothesis, principally borrowed from pre-liberated Chinese experience. No doubt the Maoists who carry the legacy of ’70s continue to rely on the peasants, rather tribal peasants, for a revolutionary change. But they have failed, unlike their predecessors of the ’70s, to raise a common slogan around which peasants can be mobilised in their millions without which no fundamental change is feasible. Revisiting the peasant question is the need of the hour and it is precisely not on the agenda of the left and far left as well.

If the Modis have their way in getting the notorious Land Bill passed in parliament, they will destroy whatever vitality and diversity Indian agriculture still has. If the agrarian scenario is not reversed the PL 480 days will be back with vengeance. The systematic destruction of agriculture will force the government to return to the bad old days of begging bowls.

It is one thing to carry out land reforms for poor and marginal peasants in ‘‘liberated and semi-liberated’’ zone, but it is quite another to mobilise broad masses of the peasantry on certain common demands that will sustain a movement for long. But these days left parties, not to speak of right parties, simply resort to adhoc-ism while addressing the problem with a view to not solving it permanently. Their protest begins in parliament and it ends in parliament. Unless there is wider shift in consciousness and praxis nothing will change for the better. In a sense all are engaged in demobilisation, not mobilisation, of masses for the right cause.

Vol. 47, No. 45, May 17 - 23, 2015