Let Farmers Die

Farmers’ suicides in various states is a legacy of the earlier regime and it continues during the present ‘achhe din’ (better days) period of Narendra Modi. Storms gathering momentum in several states have broken into open revolt in Madhya Pradesh, and in Mandsaur, a district town, six farmers have been shot dead by the security forces, but the disturbances hardly subsided propelling the Centre to rush 1000 Rapid Action Froces. It shows that farmers are prepared to defy the might of the state in order to protect their own interests. In Maharastra too, farmers have taken to the street. The demands of the farmers is for remunerative support prices and loan waivers. The way the farmers have revolted, torching vehicles and assaulting poliemen, suggests a deep rooted crisis. Although the farmers have behaved in a ‘less than orderly’ manner, their  demand is in general justified, and it goes without saying that the problems of farmers have been a subject of neglect by successive central governments. This neglect was particularly acute ever since the inception of the New Economic Policy. The crisis of the agrarian sector has deepened over the years. The corporate industrial lobby has, however, reaped enormous gains, and the number of billionaires (in terms of dollars) have gone up phenomenally, which is often paraded as a symbol of India’s economic progress.

It must be recognised that one of the economic factors leading to the latest outburst of crisis is the decision to demonetise more than 80% of circulating currency notes, a decision that caused immense suffering to the ordinary money-using people and led to huge loss of employment, particularly in the informal sector of the economy. As far as the farmers were concerned, the prices of vegetables and then pulses fell unexpectedly and in the case of the latter, the government’s earlier decision to raise the minimum support prices had led to significant increases in production in the farm year 2016-17 against the average in recent years. The demonetisation upset the calculations of farmers. The crash in the fall of prices of pulses has indeed become the flash point for the agitation.

The central government’s handling of the crisis is patently deceptive and inept. The farmers are demanding loan waivers across the country, but the government, according to a report, ‘felt that money for such huge loan write off could not be found.’ Correctly so! If huge amounts of loans taken by the corporate lobby are written off, and if unpaid debts owed by only ten corporate houses to public sector banks amount to more than Rs 7.35 trillion, and the government is powerless to recover it how could the money for loan waivers be found? If the black money stashed in Swiss and other foreign banks remains where it was, how could the government afford to grant loan-waiver on such a huge scales. So, let farmers die, either by committing suicide or by receiving bullets from forces employed by the state.

It is also interesting that war cries against Pakistan, continued propaganda against ‘terrorism’,  renewal of anti-Chinese hysteria and suppression of any dissent by labelling it  ‘unpatriotic’ and anti-national have failed to carry conviction with the farmers, because where their own livelihood is at stake, they cannot be moved by national jingoism .

Lastly but not leastly, the monetary policy statement of the RBI may be referred to. This report only bears out the warnings issued by several noted economists. A few lines from the report, as they appeared in a leading daily, may be reproduced: “Propelled by the significantly higher arrivals in mandis relative to the seasonal pattern, prices of vegetables also markedly fell from July and bottomed out in January 2017, with fire sales during the demonetisation period accentuating the fall. The seasonal uptick that typically occurs in the pre-monsoon months have been muted so far.”

The crisis is the outcome of the pro-corporate economic policies, including demonetisation, of the Modi government. Now it may try to tackle the crisis by raising its own brand of nationalism, which is in essence national jingoism, to a higher pitch. Otherwise it has little else to do.   



Vol. 49, No.50, Jun 18 - 24, 2017