The Burden Of Being An Indian Farmer

Posted on April 9, 2011 in Specials


By Anonna Dutta:

INDIA- the land of Gandhi, who thought of Indian economy in terms of “Gram Swaraj”, here lived Bal Gangadhar Tilak who said “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan”, a country with 60% of its people either directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture; and INDIA — a country where a farmer commits suicide every eight hours. Why? Because of the government policies which seem to be in their favour.

Thanks to Mr. P. Sainath when the Vidarbha issue came into light, at first, the government tried to shy out but with the public pressure increasing they finally accepted that the farmers were under ‘considerable’ stress. And this is what Maharashtra Chief Minister had to say “I want to stop the suicides completely. Unless the suicide number comes to zero and smile returns on the faces of the farmers of Vidarbha, I will continue to focus on this problem”

And then we supposed that the problems would be solved and sat back quietly. This was quite far from reality. In April 2007 an NGO named Green Earth Social Development Consulting brought out a report after doing an audit of the state and central government relief packages in Vidarbha. The report’s conclusions were:

  • Farmers’ demands were not taken into count while preparing the relief package. Neither were civil society organisations, local government bodies, panchayats etc. consulted.
  • The relief packages were mostly amalgamations of exiting schemes. Apart from the farmer helpline and the direct financial assistance, there was scarcely anything new being offered. Pumping extra funds into additional schemes shows that no new idea was applied to solve a situation where existing measures had obviously failed.
  • The farmer helpline did not give any substantial help to farmers.
  • The basis for selection of beneficiaries under the assistance scheme was not well-defined. Also, type of assistance to be given led to problems like a farmer needing a pair of bullocks getting a pump set and vice versa (or a farmer who has no access to water sources being given pump sets).
  • Awareness regarding the package was also fairly low. The report also stated that the debt on farmers might increase to its double by the year 2008.

This problem is not constrained only to Vidarbha but also to the other farming states like Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, and Uttar Pradesh. A shocking reality and yet nobody does anything about it.

Sure, the government has many schemes listed under it for the welfare of these farmers, but do these actually benefit them? Most of the times even the compensation that is given to the family of the farmers who have committed suicide does not reach them, there always are middleman to grab a chunk from in between. The case with subsidised seeds and fertilisers is the same, though the government releases sufficient funds, corruption again devours it. The schemes like providing hand pumps is also a flop because of beneficiary mismatch, as mentioned above.

There are also schemes like Farmer Markets, which if implemented properly might actually help the farmers. It helps in removing the middle man from the chain and forming a direct connection between the producer and the consumer. But in reality the farmers do not have enough time to actually come to the Haat and sell their goods and nor do they have the money to transport the good to the Haat. Thus it could be said that the scheme is not too practical. Had there been some kind of transportation provided, the farmers might actually have benefitted.

All this was happening in our country and yet how many of us knew about it? Not many. This was because the issue of farmer suicide was thought of as a subject which was not news worthy enough. Also, there always is a nexus between the government and the media, which ensures an indirect censorship. This has been hilariously depicted in the movie Peepli [Live].

But just merely talking about it cannot help our farmers. What we need to do is change our mentality and not think of the farmers as burdens on India’s economy but rather an asset. How many of us actually bless someone to become a farmer, isn’t it always engineers or doctors? This, yes this thought process has to be changed and then maybe a day would come in India when people will voluntarily move to Farming!!