On Friday, May 4, during the private Members? discussion on the plight of farmers in the Lok Sabha, was more or less about to collapse because of the absence of Members from the House during the two and half hours given for such discussions once a week. The reason being only nine members were present in the House except the chairperson which somehow rose to 26 at the end of the debate.
How serious are the problems farmers of India facing every day, was revealed only three days later, on May 7, when the Minister of Agriculture, Sharad Pawar revealed in a report that 8,000 farmers had committed suicide in the last several years. Most of us are aware why farmers have been committing suicides in such large numbers and therefore, sadly, farmers? suicides have ceased to become ?news? for both the print and the electronic media barring some honourable exceptions.
In the last 35 years and more of Parliamentary reporting, this correspondent has seen that although most Members of Parliament proudly declare that they are sons and daughters of farmers, when it comes to attending the sittings of the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha where substantive issues regarding agriculture is discussed, they find excuses not to attend those sessions, be it a discussion in the Lok Sabha under Rule 193, or discussions on the demands for grants for the Ministry of Agriculture. In fact this year, not even a single Ministry was discussed by the Lok Sabha except the Ministry of Home Affairs regarding demands for grants and hence agriculture too had become a victim.
The system of calling attention motions on issues relating to agriculture appears to have been dumped by almost all political parties.
Since the call attention motions are discussed, generally, after the question hour (and zero hour), chances are that the attendance at that hour for discussing agriculture would be higher.
Why one is insisting that only opposition parties will now have to move in a big way for trying to stem this national disgrace of farmers being compelled to commit suicides, is that even after visiting the suicide-prone areas of Vidarbha, the Prime Minister, and his government, has not been able to stop this tragic phenomenon, peculiar to Vidarbha is a much larger measure than in other areas of the country.
The opposition parties, the BJP and the Shiv Sena in particular, are quite strong in Vidarbha. In the 2004 Lok Sabha polls, perhaps the Congress had been able to win Nagpur and Bhandara alone among the 11 seats from this region. Even recently, the Shiv Sena gave a crushing blow to the Congress in Ramtek they defeated the defector -Congress candidate Subodh Mohite convincingly in a by-election caused by Mohite'sown resignation.
Nagpur is at the centre of Vidarbha and is also the headquarters of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh which has a large number of dedicated cadre. During the nineteen fifties, the R.S.S. at Nagpur had organised collection of relief materials?including rice?from every household for sending to the Rayalseema region of Madras (then, now in Andhra Pradesh) where a famine-like situation had developed. In any case, the R.S.S is always at the forefront in extending its co-operation in any emergency, all over the country. Besides, the president of the Kisan Morcha of the Bharatiya Janata Party is from Vidarbha. Also, almost all towns and villages in Vidarbha have presence of swayamsewaks in large numbers. ?A.G.