June 2017 was marked with farmer’s revolt across the country which eventually coincided with the third anniversary of NDA government. This ill-reminded their promise to double the farmers income by 2022. Pipliya mandi near Mandsaur in Madhya Pradesh became spotlight of farmers protest that turned violent resulting in killing of five farmers. It triggered chain of protest across all corners of the country.
Roots of Revolt :
The sudden outburst can be traced back to sufferings of demonetization move by Government in last November. Rural economy totally collapsed due to demonetization as the cooperative banks ran short of money; farmers lacked money to purchase important needs like seeds, fertilizers, etc., and ultimately prices for their produce fell unusually low. Pain was that government even failed to acknowledge that it had affected rural economy and agrarians. But RBI in its bi-monthly monetary policy statement reported that high arrivals at ‘mandi’ due to panic among farmers and fire sales lead to fall in prices remarkedly. The efforts to re monetize has failed to lift rural community out of miseries it created.
Second, the loan waiver announced by Uttar Pradesh government pushed the farmer’s organisations of other states to demand for similar waiver. “when UP government can waive loans. Why can’t you ?” was the question. It is not the farmers to be blamed for. The BJP manifesto itself promised farm loan waiver in all states elections and also in 2014 parliamentary elections that hyped expectations of farmers for farm loan waiver.
Third, failure of government programs like e-NAM, Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, Soil health card scheme to reap immediate benefits worsened the scenario. The gap between huge expectations created inability to bring out any ground changes add frustration towards ruling government. In addition, Government’s recent notification on Prevention of cruelty to animals (Regulation of livestock markets) Rules 2017, that ban sales on animals for slaughter in cattle market questioned the livelihood of agrarian community of country. Small cost economics will prove that. According to National Sample Survey Organisation, monthly average income of farmers is less than Rs. 6,500 a month. Selling a buffalo will get him more than Rs. 20,000 that will take care of his needs for several months. Ban in sale of livestock for non agri purpose will affect cost economics of maintaining livestock and discourage farmers to depend upon it. This move had created panic among farmers that government is insensitive towards them in policy making.
Immediate fire up :
All these factors has been dormant like lava of volcano waiting to explode at right time. That happened in June 2017 which forced several State Government and Central Government to revisit their stand in farmers welfare. So what led to immediate explosion ?
Good demand for Dal, onion, garlic, soya bean and few other crops last year made farmers to cultivate it in large scale. Abundant crops flush to markets only for distress selling. For instance, onion which sold for 40 – 50 Rupees last year was only 4 – 5 Rupees this year. Lack of good price for their produce forced farmers to streets for remunerative prices. They are also equally worried about poor Minimum Support Price (MSP) and confined low procurement by government agencies. Farmers cite agreement by India and Mozambique government for pulses procurement, huge import of pulses in fear of demand, reduced import duty of certain agricultural commodities including wheat are all the reasons for poor MSP.
Most of the farmers demand implementation of recommendations of National Commission of Farmers (chaired by MS Swaminathan) that MSP should be 50% more than cost of production. The BJP also promised to implement these recommendations in its manifesto. It is not so true that farmers seek only loan waivers instead they demand remunerative prices for their produce. They want the price of their produce to be fixed by themselves and not by government or middle men. Farmers are now aware of the fact that farm loan waiver is not the solution to the problems, and they seek long term solutions. Recent uprising of farmers across India is historical in its sense that it moved from demand of “debt waiver” to “freedom of debt” by demanding better prices for their produce.