India’s farmers are marching again. If you only went by the mainstream media coverage, you would never get to know.
A similar march of a veritable sea of humanity, many tribal farmers and landless peasants, had marched last year to draw attention to their problems.
India’s farmers are much feted by political parties in general election season. These parties hold forth on “hamarey kisan bhai” (our farmers our brothers) and yet they have been gripped by an agrarian crisis for two decades now.
Cultivation costs have galloped, while farmers’ incomes are stagnant. Farmers, in a ritualistic display, destroy their produce to protest against the price they get, which is lower than their production cost.
Farmers have long demanded a minimum support price from the government. Prices actually received continue to collapse. Indian agriculture is still completely dependent on the monsoon.
Seeds, fertilisers and pesticides are firmly in the hands of the corporations. Most farmers own less than five acres of land. And to that add a severe water crisis -- you get all the ingredients of a perfect tragedy.
While paying lip service to the agrarian crisis, the Narendra Modi government has been particularly insensitive to the farmers. Seven farmers were shot protesting in Madhya Pradesh during the tenure of the Shivraj Singh Chauhan government.
India now has a continuing crisis of abandoned cows wandering about and wrecking and destroying standing crops. The ban on cow slaughter has seen primary schools in Uttar Pradesh being used as cow shelters and pens.
The Congress got in to power by promising a loan waiver to farmers. The fine print of that is still being digested.
Demonetisation, which was a Modi-made disaster, hit farmers particularly hard. Millions of poor Indians whose transactions were primarily in cash were badly hit.
Cattle laws, particularly a fetish of the Modi government, have wrecked the livelihood of millions of farmers who bought and sold cattle.
India now has a continuing crisis of abandoned cows wandering about and wrecking and destroying standing crops.
The ban on cow slaughter has seen primary schools in Uttar Pradesh being used as cow shelters and pens.
The BJP government has no solution to the abandoned cattle and the rampaging cow vigilantes.
Every politician pays lip service to the farmer, much like the holy cow, but for all practical purposes has no solution to offer them.
Things have come to such a pass that Ajit Pawar, nephew of “farmer” leader Sharad Pawar, once said: “What will I do if there is a water crisis? Will my peeing help?”
This callous attitude is reflected all across the political line.
The farmer leader Pawar once told me before an interview: “All the milk which you drink in tetra packs comes from my farm in Baramati.”
Wish Pawar as agriculture minister had ensured that India’s farmers also got the Baramati deal.