- In a situation where over three lakh farmers have committed suicide in our country in the last 20 years, agrarian crisis is no more about food security, farmers and farm labourers alone. It has now become a crisis of the society and civilization. It is these very farmers who saved the country from ship-to-mouth existence to feed Indians without waiting for ships to arrive.
- Now that it has officially been admitted that between 1991 and 2011, the number of farmers/cultivators declined by 1.5 crore as per census, it is clear that the wages and salary of all including legislators have increased but freezing of farm incomes has been marginalizing farming communities. Despite this 94 per cent of the farmers’ have been kept out of the purview of income security.
- As a nation, fellow citizens cannot afford to remain mute spectators to the plight of farming, farmers and farm labourers when indebtedness related consequences compels them to end their life even as indebted commercial czars get bailed out or get protected or run with impunity paving the way for return of the money lenders who create yet another vicious circle of poor being poor because they are poor. Shouldn’t indebted farmers need to be treated in the same way as beneficial owners of indebted companies? Credit policy of the banking system has adopted double standards. It waives off the defaulting amount of credit at the earliest opportunity arguing that it leads to economic growth. It restructures the loans of the beneficial owners of corporate sector but penalizes the farmers. In such a scenario, waiving of farm loan too can lead to such growth. If waiving loans is a moral hazard than it is so for both the corporate and farm sector.
- Land and water co-exist but their commodification, corporatization and acquisition is undermining farming as source of livelihood. The conversion of agricultural land into non-agricultural land across the country is happening without cumulative impact assessment in a business as usual scenario. Ongoing corporatization of water and promotion of cash crops have turned rivers and ground water aquifers into monetizing machines. Such an approach has prevented rivers and other water sources to perform their geological and ecological functions. One of the core natural functions of rivers is land building. Amidst shrinking of land under agriculture, anonymous donors of political parties, real estate operators and development fundamentalists have stopped the river from performing their natural work.
- Collapse of agriculture has created problems of unemployment, increased informalisation of workers, indebtedness and devastation of cattle economy has made agricultural mode of livelihood precarious. Amidst indefensible inequality and technological unemployment driven mass poverty, the well being of fellow citizens cannot be divorced from the well being of farmers and farm labourers.
- Given the fact that an unjust structural arrangement has ensured that farmers that market remains consistently against farmers, it has emerged that fall in the prices in the open market of farm produce despite there being a bountiful harvest is a bigger calamity than continuing drought, heavy rainfall or any other natural disaster. So much so that farming is not more about farming crops but it about cultivating losses. There are situations where milk becomes cheaper than the water.
- Rich countries are providing 190 billion dollar product specific subsidy but are coercing India through anonymous donations to ruling political parties to cut the subsidy although investing in agriculture is at least five times more productive than infrastructure. In a demonstration of flawed priorities, previous government built nearly 2.5 lakh panchayat houses unmindful of the compelling need for rural godowns.
- Farmers and farm workers seem to have also been adversely affected by futures contracts unleashed by financial speculators and investors. Such contracts in agricultural commodity market entails the formal obligation to sell or buy a given amount of commodity at a specified time and price although only a miniscule of such contracts actually result in the delivery of physical commodity as they are traded before their expiration date. In such arrangements neither the primary producer nor the consumers benefit from agricultural commodity future trading.
- One cannot remain callous towards their unprecedented suffering due to law and policy driven dispossession, deprivation, misery and distress migration. Although agriculture is the biggest employer in the country and has the potential to rejuvenate country’s economy, existing policies and laws have given it least priority in comparison to corporate sector.
- Taking lessons from the fellow citizens and residents of Mumbai who participated and extended support to the farmers and farm workers during the weeklong Padyatra of 40, 000 farmers and farm workers from Nashik to Mumbai in March 2018, there is a compelling reason for fellow citizens and residents of National Capital Territory of Delhi to participate in the long march of our farmers from all over the country during 27- 30 November 2018 to Parliament in Delhi demanding 21 day special session of parliament to deliberate and legislate life threatening concerns of the nation.
- Small landholdings and uncertain monsoonal rain make India one of the world’s most expensive places to farm, while the country’s rural economy provides few other job opportunities. Vagaries impact farming: good monsoon = good yield, bad one = crop failure.
Ironically, farmers have fared badly in both good and bad monsoon years. They lost out in the good harvest year as a result of falling prices because of the supply-demand imbalance.
- They often do not gain in terms of higher prices when the output is lower in bad monsoon years because the government – which fears inflation may hurt vocal urban consumers and corporates – often chooses to address production shortfalls and actual or potential price increases by releasing accumulated stocks and augmenting domestic supplies with imports from abroad.
- 2017 saw the highest ever domestic production of pulses at 22.95 million metric tons (MMT). Sufficient to meet domestic demand but in an example of gross maladministration, the government imported a record 6.6MMT of pulses (at zero import duty). This excessive supply led to a crash in prices affecting farmers and domestic market, pushing farmers into vicious cycles of poverty and vulnerability.
- The government’s reform programme deregulated prices of inputs. There are no government controls on prices of seeds, pesticides and other plant protection chemicals, and fertilisers other than urea. While, agro-business companies are free to set prices of these crucial inputs, many of them patented and produced by large monopoly transnational corporations, at whatever level they like, over the years, subsidies have been reduced in the case of important inputs like fertiliser, raising their costs.
- Recent years have seen a sharp deceleration in the minimum support prices (MSP) announced by the government. The rate of increase of MSP started declining during the 2010 onwards, and fell further post-2014. While the average annual growth [in MSP] between agriculture year 2009 and 2013 was 19.3%, it was only 3.6 per cent between 2014 and 2017.
- Fiscal conservatism has adversely affected public investment in irrigation, drainage and flood control. Real investment in agriculture declined at 2.3% per annum between 2013–14 and 2016–17 and growth in agricultural credit slowed down to 12.3% between 2014–15 and 2016–17.
- Liberalised imports of agricultural commodities including food grains and cotton have dampened domestic prices. India’s export of agricultural produces has dipped. It recorded more than five times growth during 2004-2014: from Rs 50,000 crore to Rs 260,000 crore. In a year it dipped to Rs 210,000 crore in 2015-16, with a market potential loss of Rs 50,000 crore. But agricultural import has reported constant growth. It was Rs 30,000 crore in 2004-5, which
increased to Rs 90,000 crore in 2013-14. In 2015-16, it reached to Rs 150,000 crore.
3 DAYS: DISCUSSION OF THE SWAMINATHAN COMMISSION REPORT – 12 YEARS OVERDUE
It submitted five reports between December 2004 and October 2006 that cover a multitude of vital issues and not just MSP. Those include, to name a few: productivity, profitability, sustainability; technology and technology fatigue; dryland farming, price shocks and stabilisation – and much more. We also need to halt the privatisation of agricultural research and technology. And deal with impending ecological disaster.
3 DAYS: PEOPLE’S TESTIMONIES
Let victims of the crisis speak from the floor of Parliament’s central hall and tell the nation what the crisis is about, what it has done to them and countless millions of others. And it’s not just about farming. But how surging privatisation of health and education has devastated the rural poor, indeed all the poor. Health expenditure is either the fastest or second fastest growing component of rural family debt.
3 DAYS: CREDIT CRISIS
The unrelenting rise of indebtedness. This has been a huge driving factor in the suicide deaths of countless thousands of farmers, apart from devastating millions of others. Often it has meant loss of much or all of their land. Policies on institutional credit paved the way for the return of the moneylender.
3 DAYS: THE COUNTRY’S MEGA WATER CRISIS
It’s much greater than a drought. This government seems determined to push through privatisation of water in the name of ‘rational pricing’. We need the right to drinking water established as a fundamental human right – and the banning of privatisation of this life-giving resource in any sector. Ensuring social control and equal access, particularly to the landless.
3 DAYS: THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN FARMERS
The agrarian crisis cannot be resolved without engaging with the rights – including those of ownership – and problems of those who do the most work in the fields and farms. While in the Rajya Sabha, Prof. Swaminathan introduced the Women Farmers’ Entitlements Bill, 2011 (lapsed in 2013) that could still provide a starting point for this debate.
3 DAYS: THE RIGHTS OF LANDLESS LABOURERS, BOTH WOMEN AND MEN
With mounting distress migrations in many directions, this crisis is no longer just rural. Where it is, any public investment made in agriculture has to factor in their needs, their rights, their perspective.
3 DAYS: DEBATE ON AGRICULTURE
What kind of farming do we want 20 years from now? One driven by corporate profit? Or by communities and families for whom it is the basis of their existence? There are also other forms of ownership and control in agriculture we need to press for – like the vigorous sangha krishi (group farming) efforts of Kerala’s Kudumbashree movement. And we have to revive the unfinished agenda of land reform. For all of the above debates to be truly meaningful – and this is very important – every one of them must focus, too, on the rights of Adivasi and Dalit farmers and labourers.
While no political party would openly oppose such a session, who will ensure it actually happens? The dispossessed themselves.
There is no such thing as an ordinary citizen. Each one of us has the power to change this world for the better. If you want to help the farmers in their cause for justice then follow the following steps
- Sign the Petition urging the President of India to intervene on behalf of the farmers by holding a Special Parliamentary Session.
- Ask your MP/MLA to demand the President of the country to convene a spl.parliamentary session on the agrarian crisis and related issues. Click Here to find your constituency representative’s information.
- Organise a meeting in your area. Collect signatures asking the President to convene a session on the agrarian crisis. Organise a teach in about the Kisan Mukti March in your locality/city/town/village. For this purpose we have created an Information Packet that can help. Write to us. We can live stream your session on our social media page.
- Find a meeting in your area discussing the agrarian crisis. Here you can have your opinions heard and contribute to the cause directly.
We have prepared an Information Packet that thoroughly explores why we need to help farmers in their time of crisis. You can use this information packet in it’s entirety to spread awareness among your peers.
Click below to download the Information Packet :