Approximately 2,500 farmers committed suicide in Maharashtra (between January – October) in 2017. Whereas there has been a 21% jump in suicide cases in Madhya Pradesh since 2013. These numbers clearly point to the fact that farmers in India are in distress. With their voice falling on deaf ears, they often resort to protests and violence to attract government’s and media’s attention.
Here is a list of the events that has led to an accumulated agrarian distress:
Reworking of the MSP (Minimum Support Price), loan waivers and increased interest in the agricultural sector were few of the many promises that Narendra Modi had made as a ministerial candidate in 2014. Ironically, the protesting farmers are demanding the exact same today, given the slow progress in the agrarian sector.
In 2018, at least 30,000 farmers marched 180 km from Nashik to Mumbai to protest against the government’s failure to look into issues plaguing the farmers including land allotment and loan waivers. The farmers also called for another protest calling it the Jail Bharo protest to remind the government of their promise to maintain minimum price rate for milk. Despite the government promise to maintain the rate of Rs. 27 per litre, the farmers were getting only Rs. 20 per litre. This means crore of loss for them.
The government is allocating more budgets and launching schemes, but the end beneficiaries – the farmers – hardly reap the benefits, adding to their current distress.
Government’s indifference and callous attitude led to many protests. Some on streets, some on online! More and more people, especially the youth are becoming aware and involved in the farmer’s plight. For instance, farmers in Madhya Pradesh are voicing their grievances via the digital route. ‘One hand on steering wheel and the other on smartphone’s keypad’ – this is the key motto of the farmers today. As a result, more youth is becoming involved with at least 80% of the protestors being tech-savvy and active on social media.
In 2017, the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) started an online campaign called #kisankiloot. As per the leaders from the group, through Twitter, they are putting the reality in front of the nation of how they are being systematically looted. Soon, top journalists including Rajdeep Sardesai and Sreenivasan Jain too joined the campaign voicing their opinions. Further, #UTurnSarkar too was used to bring to light about unfulfilled promises made by PM Modi in 2014.
In June 2018, farmers across India dumped vegetables, milk and other farm produce as a mark protest. Increasingly, farmers are spilling milk, creating an artificial shortage and blocking the supply of daily necessities. That’s because they are not getting the correct prices for their produce. There is a bit of economics here…
When there is a bumper harvest, the supply goes up – which reduces the price of the produce in the economy. This means a loss to the farmers. To safeguard them against these losses, the government ensures them Minimum Support Price. So, say the government announces MSP for a quintal of rice as Rs. 1,000. Due to rise in supply, the price falls to Rs. 650. Despite this fall in price, they will receive Rs 1,000 from the government. Thus, protecting them from the loss.
But, in reality, the government fails to provide the MSP. Leaving the farmers in crisis and distress.
Indian farmers have the smallest landholding in the world. While the global average of landholding size is 5.5 hectares, the size in India is 0.5 to 1.15 hectares. Growing urbanization and more diversion of land towards non-agricultural means less land for agriculture. The result of which, farming lands are vanishing at an alarming rate.
Small landholding makes it difficult for the farmers to access large farms, irrigation facilities, modern machinery, bank credits, loans or institutional credit etc. According to NABARD, the biggest challenge for the Indian farmers is decreasing the size of landholding, which can make the profession unfeasible. Reduced profits from the produce, compel farmers to sell off their land.
The effects of demonetisation lingered and greatly influenced the rural economy. Due to the nation-wide cash crunch, there was a collapse in demand for vegetables in wholesale markets. This badly impacted the fruit and vegetable sellers. Small farmers need cash on daily basis. To buy pesticides, pay the labor, transporting the produce etc. Lack of inputs and raw materials to grow crops resulted in lower yields, reducing their sale and profits. Worst hit were the farmers who had taken loans for agriculture. Failure to get returns for their produce pushed them further into massive debt. Further, after demonetisation, traders at the government-run markets will only be paid by cheque. So, if a farmer goes to sell his grains he will be paid by cheque and not cash. Adding to their misery, as they will have to stand in the bank queue to deposit it, maybe a week more to withdraw it.