Debate, address farm crisis urgently

Farmers from 24 states have joined the Kisan Mukti March to press for their demands, including debt relief and remunerative prices for their produce. PTI

Yet another gathering of tens of thousands of farmers from all parts of the country in the national capital last week highlighted the deepening crisis in agriculture and the continuing distress of farmers. In the last two years, farmers have gone to the capital in large numbers four times to draw the attention of the government and the nation to their plight. Earlier this year, they took out a big march from Nashik to Mumbai to present their demands to the Maharashtra government. All the demands were accepted, but no action was taken. And so, they again went to Mumbai last month, and got more promises. In other states, too, like Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, they are unhappy and angry. In Mandsaur in Madhya Pradesh, the protests had turned violent, leading to police firing and deaths. It is an issue in the ongoing state elections, and farmers’ discontent and problems will also figure in the coming Lok Sabha elections.

Since promises have failed to materialise in the past, farmers want legislation to make minimum support prices (MSP) mandatory and to ensure that the government purchases all harvested produce. They want the prices to be fixed at 50% above their costs, and implementation of all other Swaminathan Committee recommendations. Other issues are loan waivers, protection from droughts and floods and timely delivery of compensation. MSPs are regularly hiked but very few farmers benefit from them. Most do not get the insurance claims under the Pradhan Mantri Fazal Bima Yojana. The demands are a reflection of the problems that the sector is riddled with. Half the farmers’ households are indebted. Debt and other problems lead many to suicide and the number is not less than 15,000 every year. One demand is for the setting up of a national debt relief commission.

Farmers have a genuine complaint that most of the promises and even budget announcements for them are not implemented. Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised to double farmers’ incomes by 2022 but they are in greater distress now. The farmers’ problems do not lend themselves to easy solutions. They are structural in nature and fulfilment of demands one by one and in isolation has not been seen to be effective. Though the contribution of agriculture to the national economy has progressively fallen, the distress in the sector affects over 60% of the population that directly or indirectly depends on it. Farmers have sought a special three-week parliament session to discuss their demands and to find solutions. Opposition parties have supported the demand, but the government has given no assurance to the farmers who marched to Delhi last week. They should be attended to.

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Debate, address farm crisis urgently


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