Farmers’ stir sign of rising distress

Pune: Farmers from Ahmednagar spill milk down a road during a state-wide protest, in Pune on Friday, June 01, 2018. Farmers today launched a 10-day-long agitation as part of a nationwide strike to press for their demands, including waiver of loans and the

The 10-day agitation launched by farmers in seven states on Friday has intensified and is set to be extended to more states. The states where the farmers have started the stir include Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, and those in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and other states may join them. The plan also includes a nationwide bandh on June 10. Farmers have resorted to protest actions like stopping the supply of produce to the mandis and it has started impacting the prices of vegetables, fruits and milk in cities and towns. The agitation is being organised by as many as 104 farmers’ bodies, led by the Rashtriya Kisan Sangh. It is unfortunate that farmers have to be in a perpetual mode of agitation, and it shows that their problems continue to remain unsolved. Farmers in Maharashtra made a long march to Mumbai in March. The Maharashtra government accepted their demands but the promises are yet to be implemented. 

The farmers have made a number of demands, including remunerative prices for their produce and waiver of farm loans. The agitation is mainly against the central government. The Narendra Modi government had promised to raise the minimum support prices to 150% of the cost of production, as recommended by the Swaminathan Committee, but it has not done that. It had promised to double farmers’ income by 2022, but most farmers are poorer now than they there a few years ago. Indebted farmers continue to commit suicide. The present plight in many places is not because of the failure of crops resulting from drought or other reasons but because of higher production and the consequent fall in prices. For example, the production of potatoes, tomatoes and garlic has increased but this has led to their prices falling below cost. Marketing of produce is a major problem because of the existence of intermediaries, and the farmer never gets the right price. Official policies often work against the interests of farmers. The government has decided to import sugar and tur dal when there is a glut of these in the country. 

The lack of facilities for preservation of perishable produce like fruits and vegetables and the absence of an efficient and transparent marketing mechanism are major problems. There is no system to give guidance to farmers on the crops to be cultivated on the basis of projections of demand and supply. Uncertainties caused by weather and government policies continue and the farm insurance system is very inadequate. The spreading agitation is another wake-up call and warning to the government. Effective policies and actions, and not promises and slogans, are needed to mitigate the rising distress. 

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Farmers’ stir sign of rising distress

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