Why are our farmers distressed?

For generations, farmers in India have received utmost priority from the government. Nehru once famously said- “Everything else but agriculture can wait”. Agriculture contributed to a large chunk of the GDP and the welfare of that sector was given greatest importance by the leaders. Over the last 4 years however, the situation has drastically changed. Farmers have been relegated to the low-est rung in terms of priority. Along with fighting daily struggles against back breaking debt, nominal support prices and government neglect, a farmer now finds himself battling against a new reality as well- climate change. Each day, he puts everything at stake as he braces himself for a devastating natural calamity like flood or drought to destroy everything that he had so painstakingly nurtured. Beleaguered and battered, he struggles to rebuild his life and livelihood all over again.

The PM may want us to believe otherwise but it is amply clear that climate change is an undeniable reality and its impact on farmers and their livelihood is disproportionately high. In the past one year alone, multiple droughts, floods, unseasonal rain and hailstorms etc have ravaged different parts of the country, causing widespread damage to farmland and farm produce. Overnight, the farmers lost all that they possessed. This sucks them further into a vicious cycle of crop failure, loan and debt. Needless to say, many farmers see suicide as the only resort.

The agriculture sector in India has been under severe stress from a deficit monsoon during the kharif season and a slump in commodity prices. The first report of the Dalwai committee, appointed by the BJP government, which evaluated the impact of climate change had also pointed out that India’s agriculture is currently in a deep crisis, adding that during 2004–14, the country’s agriculture sector witnessed its highest ever growth phase.

The Central government has been callously apathetic to their woes. It has remained paralysed by its own lies — unable to deliver on the multitude of hollow promises they made while trying to attain power. PM Modi had promised the doubling of the income of farmers by 2022. But with the current slump in agricultural growth and drop in the farm produce, this remains a distant dream. Soon after the BJP government came into power, Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh told the Parliament that standing crops have been affected on 5 million hectares. With the onset of further rain and hail-storms, which followed his statement, the ministry estimated that production of food grains dropped by 8.5 million tonnes to 257 million tonnes 2015, the lowest in three years. MSP was an-other promise that remained unfulfilled, forcing farmers to sell their produce at a much lower price. As a result, debt accumulated and the farmers sank into further debt, especially in the areas hit by drought and flood. The extent of dissatisfaction among farmers was obvious from the rising number of farmer protests. This year alone, there were 5 major farmer protests. All of the demands, howev-er, continue to fall on deaf ears.

Toiling throughout the year without any respite, farmers undoubtedly form the backbone of our economy. It is the collective responsibility of every citizen to support our farmers and do what we can to ensure a better life for them.