Gajendra Singh

Nero’s Guests

Sankara Narayanan

The farm suicides were usually treated the way a puppy getting crushed under the wheels of a car in which glitteratis and chatteratis travel. It was never a prime time news for the TRP hunting TV channels, desh rakshak journos (baring a few like Palagummi Sainath) and chest thumping middle class. It has never reached the dinner tables or drawing rooms of the millions of classy homes. Reams of newsprint were used to bring home the plight of farm families after their bread earners committed suicide. It did not touch India's hearts that were once called iron-like by Gandhiji.

All this had changed dramatically after Gajendra Singh committed suicide on 22nd April 24, 2015 right in the nation's capital shamelessly being witnessed by thousands of people. The tears started pouring down from all and sundries. The rage against politicians reached a crescendo. It may end up in a fresh spell of unseasonal rains, hail storms and tornadoes that will further dash the brittle hopes (whatever is left) of the surviving farmers.

Farm suicide is not a new pheno-menon. It is two decades old horror episode. This was neither there in British India nor in post-independent India till 1991. Origin of this is a philosophy called 'Liberalisation'; literally a policy to kill the needs of many to satisfy the greed of a selected few. One can call this as 'Market Fundamentalism'. Dr Manmohan Singh was the author who imposed this killer 'Washington Consensus' on an economic crisis ridden India in 1991 at the dictates of alien masters. Its effect on India's farmers and poor is like genocide, pesticide, herbicide etc.

Public investment on rural India in general and agriculture in particular was drastically cut and that money was diverted for urban requirements. It started taking its toll from 1995 onwards in the form of farmers ending their lives due to unbearable debts burden. NCRB has recorded nearly three lakh farm suicides till now. The great journalist Palagummi Sainath tried his best to bring this monumental horror before the nation while the other journos were covering fashion parades and IPL.

According to Eco Walk the Talk; (featuring Eco News and people) and The Hindu daily, the documentary directed by Deepa Bhatia, "Nero's Guests" is a story about India's farmer suicides as unravelled by Sainath. Nero was an ancient Roman emperor who used to conduct one of the biggest parties ancient Rome had ever seen. And for the guests to enjoy the beautiful garden, Nero brought several prisoners at night and burnt them alive for illumination. One can see the documentary in this link v=4q6m5'>JgrCJs&

The documentary compares these activities of Nero with the ruling classes of India who pursue business friendly policies while cruelly neglecting the farmers and the poor. The documentary has shown the pathetic conditions of the families who are forced to commit suicide due to the debt and humiliation caused by harmful policies pursued by the Government in the interests of the corporates in India and those of rich countries like the US and in Europe.

While it took the Finance Minister less than 2 hours to rush to Dalal Street and console the "weeping millionaires" when the Sensex plunged a few years ago, it took 10 years for the PM to pay a visit to the family of the farmers who had committed suicide. More than 3 lakh farmers have committed suicides in the last 20 years. At the same time the government of India has given more than 40 lakh crores "incentives" to corporates in the last 10 years.

The mainstream media has completely neglected this and even created an uproar supporting corporate interests when 50,000 crores debt relief was suggested by the Government at the pressure of many farmers' movements. Even this is not yet implemented at the ground level as desired and does not take care of the farmers who are at the mercy of cruel local money lenders.

When farmers were killing themselves after serving food on the tables of the elites, the Indian Neros were celebrating the blasting of atom bomb. India was Shining while there was darkness in the homes of those farmers who committed suicide.

When American cotton was dumped at 10% duty on India in 2005, many cotton farmers of AP & Maharashtra ended their lives. But 'Max factor' boys were enjoying the extra H1-B visas obtained in exchange of the American cotton import. The other India prospered virtually at the cost of thousands of farm lives. When farmers were dumping potatoes and tomatoes on the road for want of remunerative prices, middle class affluent people are enjoying the ketchup and potato chips "Made in India" by Indian manufacturers using imported potatoes and tomatoes.

When Swaminathan Committee recommended the MSP (basic cost plus 50% profit) in 2008 even while there was no let up to the farm suicides, UPA govt cared a hoot to implement that proposal. Nobody raised a finger against this injustice. Modi promised the farmers in meeting after election the MSP as recommended by Swaminathan Committee. But without a semblance of shame, govt of India's Addl Solicitor General informed the Apex court recently, '50% profit to farmers will distort the market.' Forget about protests; are people aware of this monumental hoax or in Amit Shah's style a Jumla?

Banks and insurance companies are nonexistent in India as for as the small and medium farmers are concerned. PSU banks are lending money meant for farm sector at cheaper interest rates to selected NGOs. These NGOs in turn lend the farmers and are officially allowed to charge interest rates ranging from 18 to 24%. Sahukars created by the state! Multilateral agreements like GAAT, WTO, IPR, FTA etc are being signed surrendering the interests of Indian farmers and to the merriment of India Inc and international lobbies.

NSSO recently released data that confirmed the average income of an Indian farm household is Rs 3100 per month. Not a semblance of ripple among the TRP mongers or the IPL watchers or the India Inc. Yet India Inc has the audacity to issue a character certificate to Modi's Land Bill as a bonanza for the farmers.

A profession which serves food to all the 130 crore people while employing 60% of its workforce gets a whopping 1% allocation in the union budget. While computing the MSP, a daily wage rate of Rs 60 is considered. And the farm family's labour input is not included in the MSP. Why should a poor farmer be compelled to subsidise the cost of raw materials required by the mills? And being a person BPL, how can the farmer subsidise the food expenses of affluent Indians?

One can easily compute the losses incurred by the farmers through satellite surveys in a few days. Persons in power watch / read farm suicide since the last few weeks after the unseasonal rains and hail storms destroyed crops in lakhs of acres across the nation. Yet none of the experts offered the great IT tools possessed by the knowledge power to assess the damage duly watching the farmers' deaths.

Then the country pays homage to the people felled by terrorists; light candles in their memory and shed tears for them; absolutely justifiable. 3 lakh food providers ended their lives after serving food to all due to a state-sponsored terror. Have people ever cared to remember them? Why no candle and no homage for them?

The American occupation of Vietnam came to an abrupt end when a Buddhist monk in full public view burnt himself to death. The whole immolation was photographed by a journalist. These photographs created such a revulsion in America that Linden Johnson was forced to pull out the American army. In a similar vein, if the death of Gajendra Singh ends the hoax called Land Acquisition Bill, his suicide though tragic will not go in vain.

Vol. 47, No. 46, May 24 - 30, 2015