Dr Yogesh Sharma
Nowadays, suicides by farmers are being talked about a lot in the media. In this some of the politicians, intellectuals and NGOs have been actively expressing their concern. Farmers say that they are finding it hard to face the cost of farming due to mounting prices. So they take loans from banks and other financial institutions. It is clear that farmers are ignored, both, by the society as well as by the government and the policy-makers. So they have only one easy option that is to commit suicide.
A farmer is treated very callously in India. There are thousands of special schemes for the welfare of big vote banks, like Dalits and Muslims, but hardly any scheme for farmers.
The government machinery is very indifferent to farmers. Apart from poverty, droughts and floods, the farmers are also harassed by courts, banks, and money-lenders. When he does not get a good price for his produce, his favourite prayer has become, “Oh God! Come and lift me….Oh, God! Oh God!”.
The government can stop suicide by farmers by starting a farmer pension scheme. Suicide by farmers due to debt and poverty. It is sad and unfortunate that no welfare steps are taken for farmers. It is a very famous quote that farmers are born in debt, live in debt and die in debt.
After the Independence so many anti-farmer acts like the Abolition of Zamindari (Landlord) system, Land Ceiling Act, Rent Control Act, Chakbandi Act, Land Acquisition Act, etc have been enacted. These acts have brought disaster to farmers and villagers. These acts reduced farmers to beggars. Ironically, all these acts were introduced by the Congress government with the support of the Communists and other secular and socialist parties, who are now trying to show themselves as the messiah of farmers.
Small land holdings and the cruelty of the government machinery, supported by anti-farmer draconian acts are mainly responsible for a miserable lot of farmers leading them to suicide. Politicians, bureaucrats, media and intellectuals try to show the suicides as a puzzle. They try to hide their callousness. Farmers work on fields and are ignorant about how tricky and unkind is the outer world. When a farmer is trapped in the vicious racket of debt then it is impossible for him to cross the bar safely. Nobody is helpful to him..
With great fanfare government framed some acts to help farmers. But these acts brought more disasters to them. The Chakbandi Act, the Ownership to Bataidar and Pettedars Acts etc. are in this category. Under Chakbandi Act, the government tried to give farmers land at a single place instead of different places. But this act put farmers to unending litigations. Poor farmers were exploited even as some vote-hungry governments gave ownership rights to Bataidar and Pettedars.
It is shocking that suicides by farmers in India are much higher than the general average. Surprisingly rich states like Maharashtra, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh top in farmers’ suicide cases, whereas in poor states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Bengal or Orissa it is much less. Farmers everywhere, borrow money from their relatives and friends. They adopt this measure after banks and private money-lenders refuse them .
Things get worse if the farmer failed to repay the debt in time. He is like an outcaste in family functions, marriages and local meetings and gatherings. But in North Indian states of UP, Bihar, Bengal or Orissa has no such morals. Perhaps this may be the reason of low incidence of farmers’ suicide in the poverty-stricken states.
Today farmers need special protection. First, anti-farmers acts like Abolition of Zamindari (Landlord) System’, Land Ceiling Act, Chakbandi Act, Ownership to Bataidar and Pettedars Acts, Rent Control Act etc., must be repealed. Farmers must get quotas and reservation in education, employment and government schemes. Special rural and agriculture banks should be opened to give farmers loan on easy conditions.
Most of the time farmers have to face droughts and floods. Governments can very easily solve these problems and help the farmers. The government must construct dams, check dams, Link Rivers and harvest rain waters. These measures will solve the problems of drought, floods and water shortage permanently. River beds, river catchment areas, ponds, water bodies, meadows, etc all are encroached by the land mafia or distributed by the politicians to their vote banks so hardly any land is left as meadows for animals.
Governments must establish rural and agriculture based industries and give 100% reservation to farmers in such industries. These measures will give farmers employment and some additional income. Farmers who are completely dependent on agriculture should be given agriculture pension, quotas and reservation in jobs and education.
(The writer is an Associate Professor in the S S N
College, Alipur, Delhi)