It is not unusual that political parties take up burning social issues with an eye on electoral gains. But the initiative in rehabilitating the forsaken farmers of Vidarbha by the BJP is commendable for more reasons than one.
It was reported that the BJP in an effort to highlight the UPA failure to address the plight of farmers in Vidarbha, has decided to adopt the families of over 500 debt-trapped farmers who committed suicide during the last couple of years. The BJP'sadoption move will follow party'snational president Rajnath Singh'stwo-day tour of the region next week. Shri Singh is to commence his two-day yatra from Wardha on January 10. His yatra, according to the programme announced, will pass through the farmer suicide-hit districts of Amravati, Akola, Washim and Yavatmal. He will address meetings at various places on the way. At Yavatmal, where the maximum number of farmers have committed suicide, his yatra will culminate, marking the beginning of a new phase in realistic affirmative action with a human touch.
This might be the first instance of a political party taking up a social responsibility where it has to foot the bill. This is no propaganda stunt. Instead of blaming the government and waiting for the elusive sarkari largesse to reach the deprived, needy farmers, the BJP has set a unique example in positive social action. It definitely will emphasise the insensitivity of the centre and the state governments?both ruled by the UPA parties?to the agony of the Indian farmer.
Farmer suicide is not the bane of Maharashtra alone. It has become a national blemish. There are states like Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Punjab where the situation is equally grave. The Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last year made a much-hyped visit to Vidarbha with big promises at the peak of farmer suicides in the region. But after his so-called package there were more suicide cases than earlier, also perhaps accentuated by the dismay and disappointment evoked by this futile exercise.
In fact, the UPA government has no plan or interest in reviving Indian agriculture. It is working on the dictates of the IMF-World Bank regime whose idea is to promote import of farm products and food items from western countries who are desperately in search of captive Asian markets. There is a powerful international lobby which is encouraging India to abandon its agrarian oriented development model. Their argument is that imported food articles are cheaper than those cultivated in India because of the high cost of production.
But this is notional. Agricultural implements have become costlier over the years. And per hectare production is lower than the world average. It is also because over the past decade investment on agriculture in the country has come down with the focus shifting to industry.
The BJP leader'scampaign will highlight the UPA'sdisturbingly indifferent attitude to agriculture. The government has not fulfilled the promised waiver of loans to the farmers. It does not find anything wrong in importing wheat and rice at double the price from global market though it has repeatedly refused to enhance minimum support price for Indian farmers to remunerative level. The UPA has also not done enough to rehabilitate the debt-trapped farmers and settle their demands like more credit at low interest rates or expeditious completion of irrigation projects.
Rajnath Singh, a former union agriculture minister, is proud of his agricultural background. He has often committed himself to fighting for the farmers? cause. Of late, the politicians and the media have become indifferent to recurring incidents of farmer suicides.
The BJP effort to bring the issue again to national focus is a step in the right direction. As a political strategy and constructive ideological plank it has great contemporary appeal. Agriculture is the foundation of India'snational economy. It is in the best national interest that Indian politicians reinvent the Indian farmer and relocate the policy format on their welfare rather than chasing the mirage of sliding MNC dollar.