It is an alarming situation in the countryside. Poverty dominates the life of Indian farmers who produce food grains and feeds more than one billion people. It is the matter of national concern that the farmers of Maharashtra, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, West Bengal etc., are committing suicide. It is most saddening, unfortunate and horrifying. Majority of farmers are suffering due to burden of heavy debt. Farmers are suffering due to lack of availability of good seeds, electricity, water, lack of credit facility and marketing arrangement. There is absolute poverty, ignorance and lack of resources, which altogether have caused great pain and misery. It is a matter of shame, that the farmers, who feed the entire nation, are unable to feed their own children. We need to first recognise agriculture as an important field for public good and identify ourselves with the farmers.
Therefore, a countrywide movement is necessary to put an end to the suicides by farmers. Suicides are the result of debts, which is a consequence of the rising cost of production and falling prices. Something very fundamental is happening. The trends of growing dependence of formers in the suicide belt on hybrid and genetically modified seeds, which were costly and could not be saved.
In the year 1998, the world banks structural adjustment policies forced India to open up its seed sector to global corporations. The global corporations changed the input economy overnight. Farm saved seeds were replaced by corporate seeds, which needed fertilizers and pesticides and could not be saved.
These include lack of assets, low-income levels, hunger, poor health, insecurity, physical and psychological hardships, social exclusion, degradation and discrimination and political powerlessness and disarticulation. Therefore, policymakers should address not only the low-income or no-income and consumption aspects of poverty but also the complex social dimensions.
Food grain, milk, vegetables, fruits etc, are produced in the villages and given to urban nourishment. So, the blood of the villages is the cement with which the urban edifice has been built. This development process has helped urban India to a greater extent than rural India. So it is high time, we must direct the development process to strengthen rural India and bridge the rural urban divide.
As seed saving is prevented by patents as well as by the engineering of seeds with non-renewable traits, seed has to be bought for every planting season by poor peasants. A free resource available on farms becomes a commodity which farmers were forced to buy every year. This increases poverty and leads to indebtedness. As debt increase and become unplayable, farmers are compelled to sell kidneys or even commit suicide. Seed saving gives farmers life. Seed monopolies rob farmers of life.
In the 1990s the worst sorrows of farmers came to the surface. In the beginning it was believed that most of the suicides were happening among the cotton growers, especially those from Vidarbha. A look at the figures given out by the state Crime Records Bureau, indicate that it was not just the cotton farmer but farmers as a professional category were suffering, irrespective of their holding size. Moreover, it was not just the farmers from Vidarbha, but all over Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka and Punjab, farmers? suicide continues unabated.
But the UPA government at the Centre is more bothered about registering economic growth rates to attract foreign investors, with the plight of the poor in India becoming a matter of secondary interest. Heartless central government is importing lakhs of tonnes of wheat from abroad.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is in the habit of forming committees for every serious issue, but when the report is ready, he usually becomes very reluctant to accept the recommendations. It is therefore important to exert pressure on the government to evolve a cohesive policy to check the spate of farmers? suicides. The directionless government announces package after package. But the farmers are not happy with the ?relief packages? announced by the state and central governments. They want the large issues so that curse of suicides by farmers are addressed. ?Give us a price, not a package? is the demand of the farmers. They expect the government to actually implement the various money – lending acts that already exists to prevent the alienation of the farmers land holding. Crop-insurance scheme must be made more farmer friendly, with lower premium and less red-tape. Farmers should have quality agricultural inputs like seeds, fertilisers and pesticides. They should be prevented from cheating by unscrupulous suppliers of industrial inputs for agriculture. Reliable agricultural advisories for farmers on form related practices are needed better access to markets for agricultural produce to get higher rates for farmers produce will help them to a great extent. Better education and health facilities must be available in the villages itself. Since expenditure on these basic needs has been one of the most important financial drain in the village.
The direction of policy on farming – central to rural- India is simple in its main idea to take agriculture out of the hands of farmers and place it firmly in the hands of large corporations. Every move, every policy, only pushes this idea further forward. We are witnessing the largest displacement in our history. It is not happening in a dam or a mining project. It is happening in agriculture. This is not being done with tanks and bulldozers. The government makes farming impossible for small holders. We have to stop this negative process.
The entire country, its opinion-makers, intelligentsia must identify themselves with sufferings of the poor and downtrodden. The nations prosperity is touching selected few of urban India while majority in the villages are the worst sufferers. There is an urgent need to quickly and radically change the living conditions of the disadvantaged in this country. Development of rural areas and rural people must be the primary concern of the economic planning and development process of the country. We must guarantee the wage employment, ensure food security, rural education, health, housing, roads, and drinking water. Better rural infrastructure can improve the economic status of the villages. The true cure to our problems is to create more jobs and better jobs. A report of the ministry of statistics and programme implementation which showed that BJP-ruled states have faired better in implementing schemes like Sampoorna Gramin Rozgar Yojana, Village Electrification and assistance to SCs/STs and the weaker sections are really a matter of satisfaction.
(The writer is Joint Secretary BJP Parliamentary Party.)
The Problem of unemployment
Officially there are three crore educated unemployed youth from rural areas registered with the employment exchange across the country.
Highest Number of unemployed youth registered in: