#farmersloan : They Want More Than Loan Wave-Off!

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Pritpal Kaur           Consulting Editor, 6D

New Delhi, They are called ‘अन्नदाता’, the provider of the food. Yet they have become the most oppressed lot in our country in the recent times. The result is we get to read stories of farmers committing suicide in various parts of the country almost on the daily basis. Is it going to stop? Can it be stopped by loan waver? But the fact is, Government needs to come up with Pro-Farmer” reforms and not the “Pro-Market” reforms.

Governments come and go, winning mandate on the basis of making huge promises to help farmers elevate their life standards, to provide them with the right price of their produce, to provide them seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, water, tools and other essentials at reduced rates. But in reality the farmers today are the most neglected section of our society.

Most of the farmers are into agriculture not by the choice but by compulsion. They have inherited this profession from their forefathers. Farming is the a Family Tradition in India.

Although there is a small section of farmers now, who are highly educated and after being in white collar jobs at home as well as abroad, are returning to their roots to take up agriculture as their hobby and profession both. But firstly their number is minuscule and secondly these farmers are a far cry from the large population of our farmers, who are into agriculture not by choice but by compulsion, as they have inherited this profession from their forefathers and due to various reasons they are steeped deep into it.

Lack of proper policies on the part of the government, Farmers are continuing to live under harsh and unfavourable conditions.

Despite the fact that because of lack of proper policies on the part of the government, they are forced do be doing farming and are continuing to live under harsh and unfavourable conditions as they have no other option. For the available opportunities for them for other professions are very rare and few.

One of the major reasons behind this poor state of affairs of our farmers is that they are largely uneducated as well as un-organised. But this situation is changing now. Farmers are increasingly feeling suffocated, sidelined and cheated by government at large, hence are raising their voice all over the nation through rallies, dharnas and hadtaals.

Some state governments too had somewhat softened to them and have tried to address their woes but the steps taken so far are still largely insufficient. From almost all parts of the country farmers’ suicide reports have been filed, and from almost all parts of the country farmers have formed a united front and have come forward with their demands for the right price for their produce as well as other benefits.

The loan waver by many states extended to farmers was seen as the proverbial olive branch but farmers are not just satisfied with this gesture and there are other consequences too to this act.

Even the NDA candidate for the post of vice president of India Mr. Venkia Naidu had said that loan waver for the farmers has become a fashion statement for state governments. Recently Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab and Karnataka governments have issued orders stating the waving off of farmers’ pending loans. In the states where this was not declared, farmers are on the verge of starting agitation raising the demands to this effect.

Whereas the media, economists and policy makers are issuing warnings against this step. According to them waving off of loans may have serious implications on the economy of the country.

Editorials of major dailies have vigorously criticized this act of the government and categorised it as a stupid people pleasing gimmick. Bankers have also expressed their displeasure over this by saying that these wavers can pose serious threats to the banking sector.

Many agriculture experts too have concluded that these are simple gimmicks and will not benefit farmers at all. Whereas finance ministry has completely dismissed itself of any responsibility towards these loan wavers.

Farmers associations themselves too are not in favour of these loan wavers. Their argument is that this loan waver doesn’t address their real problems. Their real problem is that they are not getting the actual price for their produce in the market. Their produce generally is bought in the market at prices lower than the actual cost of producing it. Their plea is that they should get the real price of their produce so that they are not forced to do farming of loss.

Many agriculture expert believe and say that the government’s policy is not in favour of the farmers, i.e. to provide them the real price of their produce. It is more on the lines of keeping a balance between farmers’ and consumers’ interests.

The governments itself is caught between a catch twenty two situation. On one side are farmers who need to be given proper price of their produce and on the other hand are the large section of poor and lower middle class of our society who can not afford to buy expensive food. So far the government policy is not to provide the farmer the proper price of their product but it is to provide subsidy to the common people on food items.

One of the major argument the farmers’ union put forward is that when onion was a rupee a kilo, the ticket to a film was worth two and half rupees. Now a film’s ticket costs two hundred and fifty bucks but the onion is still being sold at twenty to twenty five rupees a kilo, whereas it should be sold at hundred rupees a kilo.

The real issue is the awareness among the farmers. Can farmers be actually one day completely aware of their rights as the consumers are today?

The large gap in acquiring price and the end price too play it’s prominent role in farmers’ woes. Onion that starts at one rupee a kilo from a village in Maharashtra is sold at twenty to twenty five rupees a kilo in Delhi’s retail market. The question is how to address this gap?

‘Puntanba’ village of Ahmadnagar district in Maharashtra’s gram sabha decided to grow food only for themselves during 2017 and let the city people tend to their own needs by themselves. This movement proved to be so effective that Fadanvees government had to take action and the Maharashtra government waved away all loans of all the farmers

But the farmers all over the country still are not satisfied, their main demand is getting the real price of their produce. More so that with the advent of modern technology and changes in environment and pattern of crops; and high demand of good quality food more in quantity too, the cost of agriculture too has significantly gone up. And the burden comes straight on the already poor and oppressed farmers.

So the need of the hour is to address all the woes of the farmers and instil a sense of confidence among them by generating this impression by the government’s acts and intention, that the government does take good care of it’s farmers too and not only the consumers of these farmers’ produce.

 

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