In a green paper, organisations have pointed out how a number of promises made to farmers have not been kept.
New Delhi: Terming the Narendra Modi government as the “most anti-farmer government in the history of independent India” for reneging on its “core” promise of revising minimum support prices (MSP), a ‘green paper’ on agriculture says the Bharatiya Janata Party’s pledge to “double farm incomes by 2022” remains a distant dream.
“The reason we are calling this government as the most anti-farmer government is because not only did the government fail to keep up to its promise, it has gone out of way to cause losses to farmers,” said activist and Swaraj India leader Yogendra Yadav while releasing the Green Paper, at a press conference in Delhi, adding that the recently-released Economic Survey bears this out.
“In the last four years, the level of real agricultural GDP and real agriculture revenues has remained constant,” said the survey, implying that there has been no significant growth in the agricultural GDP during the BJP-led regime yet.
The paper, which dwells on farmers’ issues in the country, is brought out by ASHA (Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture), Jai Kisan Andolan, NREGA Sangharsh Morcha, People’s Action on Employment Guarantee, Rythu Swarajya Vedika and Swaraj India.
The green paper mentions 12 points termed as the government’s “acts of omission and commission since 2014”. It elaborates on how demonetisation has deeply affected the farmer. “This ill-advised and shoddily executed move (demonetisation) could not have come at a worse time for the farming community. It was the time of Kharif harvest and start of Rabi sowing. By now the mayhem caused by demonetisation has been adequately documented, though still not acknowledged by this government,” says the paper.
Ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the paper said, the BJP’s chief campaigner in 2014 and now Prime Minister Narendra Modi should be reminded of his promise to ensure 50% profit over the cost of cultivation. The promise has been blatantly broken in the past four years with the MSP being so low that in many cases, they deliver negative returns, says the paper, adding that the “story of this government in power for nearly four years is a story of betrayal of the solemn promises made to the farmers”.
The paper also says that in the first year of the BJP government being in power, it prohibited state governments from declaring additional bonuses in MSPs for their own farmers, dealing a further blow to farmers who were recovering from two consecutive droughts.
Indebtedness remains one of the major causes of farmer suicides, the paper notes. The number of indebted agricultural households has increased to 52% from 48.6% (around 4.68 crore households), along with an increase in average amount of outstanding loan (Rs 47,000 in 2013, compared with Rs 12,585 in 2003). “It is seen that a vast majority of farm suicides are of tenant farmers and moreover, they don’t get to avail of agri-credit from institutional sources since banks continue to seek pledging of land titles even for short term crop loans,” the paper says.
On the plight of women farmers, the paper points out that “No gender disaggregated data is maintained to know how much agriculture credit has gone to women land owners”. On the government’s role in supporting agriculture by enhancing irrigation and water management techniques, the paper terms the government’s performance as “mediocre”.
Since 2015-16, the government has brought in various schemes on irrigation, watershed development, micro-irrigation and command area development under a single umbrella of the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY). “Most targets have not been achieved, and budget allocations have lagged the originally planned allocations,” the paper says.
On the serious challenges that farmers face due to climate change, the paper cites the Economic Survey, which has also highlighted the urgent need to focus on rain-fed areas, which suffer the worst impacts.
Hoping for higher budget allocation for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 (MGNREGA), the paper says, “As we await the budget allocations for it in FY 2018-19, MGNREGA is facing another monetary drought with liabilities for wage and material payments mounting every day. MGNREGA is a demand driven law, which means that money should be provided as per demand. However this is not happening. The allocation of FY 17-18 of Rs. 48,500 crores is long exhausted with expenditure having crossed Rs. 50,000 crores, and more than two months still left. While an increase in allocation for FY 18-19 is expected, the total amount required needs to be seen in context, not simply as an increased allocation.”
Giving voice to agitating farmers across the country, the green paper called for a hike in the MSP of all crops as well as the inclusion of more crops in the system. The paper also called upon the Centre to declare an Agricultural Debt Relief package of at least Rs 200,000 crore for the entire country, which is used with matching contributions from the state governments to implement debt relief. Also, the government should establish a permanent, statutory Farmers’ Income Commission to ensure basic living incomes to all agricultural households, the paper said.
Anmol Nayak is a final year student of mass communication at Xavier University Bhubaneswar, and an intern with The Wire.