As the general elections are approaching fast, there is a competition among all the political parties to take credit if the loans of farmers are waived by the government. I am surprised to see even some social groups are joining this chorus. All efforts so far have failed to stop large-scale suicides by farmers. Packages declared by the nation'sPrime Minister and Maharashtra State'sChief Minister have failed miserably to stop the suicides. The Prime Minister had cancelled his planned trip to Vidarbha while recently attending some function in Pune city with the obvious intention to avoid embarrassment in this regard. The Prime Minster is known as world-known economist and former governor of the Reserve Bank of India. Everyone was hoping to see major changes in our economy concerning aam aadmi and more particularly the farming community. Nothing has happened. The economist-cum-prime-minister has miserably failed to understand the basic issues of our farming community and in taking appropriate steps to give a strong base for India'smain economic activity. I am sure he too got into the illusion that only industrial growth can solve all the problems of our common man. He attends the industry'smeetings but never attends the farmers? meetings. This shows his least concern for our aam aadmi. Common man in the street and the agri-field has lost all the hopes of getting any relief from the exploitation suffered by him and his parents during the last sixty years, notwithstanding which political party was in power.
No one dares to touch the fundamental issue bothering all the farmers across the country. The government machinery and its political leaders cannot correct the situation as all of them are under the obligations of the industry lobby. There is a give-and-take understanding between the industry lobby and the government (including political leaders and their parties). Industry has been dictating the terms of our economy right from the days of Pandit Nehru. It has been scientifically workedout and presented to the government umpteen numbers of times that the farm products? prices in the market or prices decided by the government under ?Support Pricing Scheme? are way below the actual cost of production incurred by farmers. No farmer is insisting or demanding any profit as a normal practice in any trade or business. He is demanding to be fully compensated on the actual cost of production of main crops produced by him. This is essential just to survive for the time being.
This demand has been coming from the days of India'sfirst agitation of farmers organised in Vidarbha way back in late 1960s under the banner of the Maharashtra Cotton Growers? Sangh (MCGS) with the intellectual inputs coming from Dr. M.G. Bokare and others. When this agitation started by the Sangh was gaining strength not only in Maharashtra but also in other states like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab etc., it was ruthlessly crushed by the government machinery with covert support of the industry lobby. The government'sagreeing to guarantee such cost of production-based prices to farmers would cause inflation in the country was the lame excuse prompted by the industry lobby. Higher prices for farm products would increase the cost of industrial products as most of the farm products are used in industry as raw materials. This is a clear plot against unorganised farming community. The plot is still in operation. In reality the inflation in the economy is on account of industrial products? prices constantly rising for maintaining the higher profit levels.
The findings of an independent institution was called for by the Hon. Mumbai High Court to understand the reasons behind suicides by farmers in thousands in Maharashtra. The Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) is the institution that submitted the subject report in March 2005 to the said Court. The report has endorsed all the facts earlier pointed out by the MCGS more than thirty years ago. The report has also liberally commented against the government'sinaction as well as intentional negligence in doing the justice to the nation'sbiggest economic activity, i.e. agriculture. A systematic deprivation of farming community, with a huge strength of over twenty crore families across the country by allocating decreasing amounts of central government'sdevelopment funds, was clearly pointed out in the report. No one from the government has contested these findings in public. I understand the Hon. High Court has asked for details from the government in this regard.
The amount outstanding to these moneylenders is neither known to anyone from the demanding parties nor to the government machinery. Then who is fooling whom? Is it not a case of playing with the sentiments of our poor farmers?
Even it is assumed that all the official loans from banks are waived by the government due to pressure of forthcoming elections, what guarantee would be there that farmers would not be taking further loans and get trapped in the second round of indebtedness? Writing-off over Rs. 84,000 crore by the government from the tax dues from the industry sector last year was done without much noise. In reality it was not necessary as the industry was making huge profits all these years. Industry will start making more money once this large amount is written-off by the government, as there is a huge profit margin in all the products sold by the industry sector. One can realise the profit margins by looking at financial reporting in the media. Every company is showing huge increase in profits each successive year and still announcing further price increases on its products. They are faithfully following the principle of exploitative monopoly capitalism. In contrast the farmers are constantly losing about 30-40 per cent on their farm products. This is nothing but open looting of one sector by the other sector with covert permission of the ruling government.
The farmers? associations are demanding full compensation of cost of products for all the major farm products from the government while fixing the support prices each year.
Both ways the farming community is at a great loss and will never be taken care of by any of these agencies. Government and industry lobby are in hand in gloves against rising prices of farm products. Present losses on farm products will continue. Leaders of political parties are not keen to study the real economics of the farming activity and accordingly demand the compensation for farmers. They, as at present, keep the temperature high by touching non-core issue of farmers? woes just to gain political mileage and time. Leaders of farmers? associations are not keen to take on the government on the major issues like full compensation of cost of production for all the major farm products. They have also joined this bandwagon of political leaders in taking up this non-core issue of waiver of loans.
Some leaders of present day associations of farmers might have been inducted in the country'sfarming community with a clear message from the government to soften the agitating power of the farming community while demanding full compensation of the cost of production for all the major farm products. This looks obvious as the original farmers? agitation in early 1970s was becoming much stronger and vociferous in its demands and gaining strength in demonstration against the then government. The original agitation had to be crushed to weaken the strength of the agitation by inducting non-farmers as leaders. This was successfully achieved by the government.
In short, I would like to state that mere demanding waiver of farmers? loans would only help to sideline main issues of farmers and, in turn, help the government in power. Farmers are unable to understand this politics. They should not get into this trap of politicians. The educated young farmers must study the present day crisis and come out boldly against these middlemen in obtaining their just demands. Two generations of farmers have left this world without gaining anything. Some elderly persons who are still around from the second generation are taking the extreme steps to get rid of the problems of poverty and indebtedness once and for all by committing suicides. The new generation should not follow the same steps. They are well educated and exposed to modern systems. They understand the happenings in the surrounding; as such, they should consolidate themselves to solve their own problems without and middlemen. Unless they corner the government, they will never achieve any fruitful thing. Multinational corporations are waiting in corridors to convert the country'sentire agriculture activity into corporate farming and throw the farming community permanently out of its life-support activity. Young farmers should be careful of the present day brokers of international players presently camping in India under the guise of globalisation.
(The writer can be contacted at C-507 Shilpa Hsg. Soc., Near MIT College, Paud Road, Pune-411 038.)