Modi se­dates the farmer

The BJP is repack­ag­ing old schemes and offering cos­metic changes to the agrar­ian pol­icy

Down to Earth - - LAST WORD -

TDay, farm­ers were sin­gled out HIS IN­DE­PEN­DENCE for spe­cial hon­our by Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi. From the ram­parts of the Red Fort, he an­nounced that the min­istry of agri­cul­ture would hence­forth be known as agri­cul­ture and farm­ers’ wel­fare min­istry.He promised a per­ma­nent sys­tem to ad­dress agri­cul­tural prob­lems and farm­ers’wel­fare.

Modi also waxed elo­quent about as the ben­e­fits of neem- coated urea—this could ex­plain the barely con­cealed bore­dom of the in­vi­tees at the Red Fort —and en­hanced crop in­sur­ance.There were also hom­i­lies on how farm­ers could save wa­ter, save en­ergy and save fer­tilis­ers.

The grand procla­ma­tion on the name change has been met with stun­ning si­lence from the farming com­mu­nity. In any case, what could they have said? Thank you for an­other sop? We are thrilled that this gov­ern­ment has of­fered us more old baubles in new wrap­ping? Farm­ers ob­vi­ously would have seen through this empty rhetoric since they have been us­ing neem- coated urea for over a decade. For the rest of us who have not tum­bled to the notso-clever spin of the Bharatiya Janata Party (bjp) gov­ern­ment,here are some hard truths. Let’s start with the neem­coated urea that has cap­tured the Prime Min­is­ter’s imag­i­na­tion.It is not a new ini­tia­tive to boost the sharply erod­ing fer­til­ity of In­dia’s agri­cul­tural lands as his gov­ern­ment claims. Ac­cord­ing to Fact Checker, a data web­site, urea, as also some pes­ti­cides,has been coated with neem for 11 years! The web­site mined par­lia­men­tary an­swers to show that in Au­gust 2011,the pro­duc­tion of such urea had been upped from 20 per cent to 35 per cent.

Ditto for the much vaunted Prad­han Mantri Kr­ishi Sin­chai Yo­jana (pmksy) that Modi claims as an­other pi­o­neer­ing ini­tia­tive to en­sure univer­sal ac­cess to ir­ri­ga­tion. This is merely a new avatar of the Ac­cel­er­ated Ir­ri­ga­tion Ben­e­fits Pro­gramme launched dur­ing the 11th Five Year Plan to in­fuse funds into lan­guish­ing ir­ri­ga­tion projects. Dur­ing this pe­riod, the Union gov­ern­ment al­lo­cated

67,477 crore to the states to cre­ate ir­ri­ga­tion po­ten­tial for 9.4 mil­lion hectares. The Modi gov­ern­ment’s sleight of hand while claim­ing pmksy as a new ini­tia­tive is that funds for cre­at­ing ad­di­tional ir­ri­ga­tion in­fra­struc­ture are ac­tu­ally be­ing lopped with just 1,800 crore set aside for the cur­rent year.

Chang­ing names is an old ploy of politi­cians and po­lit­i­cal par­ties but this gov­ern­ment has turned it into a fine art.That it gets away with brazen claims is be­cause the me­dia fails to call Modi’s bluff and also ig­nores the op­po­si­tion when it ex­poses such facts. No one is say­ing that the agrar­ian cri­sis is a cre­ation of the bjp regime; it has been a can­cer that has been al­lowed to spread by all gov­ern­ments. What is irk­some to the farm­ers is that their most wor­ry­ing con­cerns are be­ing brushed aside by a party that promised to make th­ese chal­lenges its pri­or­ity. Al­most ev­ery farmer’s or­gan­i­sa­tion has camped in Delhi over the past year to seek re­lief—an un­par­al­leled protest in re­cent years—to nudge the PM into ac­tion. This hasn’t hap­pened; in­stead, farm­ers are be­ing fobbed off with a ridicu­lous sop. If the re­named min­istry means busi­ness, it could delve into the many re­ports on the per­sis­tent agrar­ian dis­tress. The most in­sight­ful of th­ese were pro­duced by the Na­tional Com­mis­sion on Farm­ers, chaired by M S Swami­nathan, the well-known agri­cul­ture sci­en­tist. It de­tailed the rea­sons why farm­ers were com­mit­ting sui­cide in droves.

Sui­cide fig­ures, how­ever, have dropped dra­mat­i­cally all of a sud­den.Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Crime Records Bureau fig­ures,the num­ber of farm­ers who took their lives in 2014 was halved to 5,600 com­pared with 11,700 in 2013. So did the bjp do some­thing mag­i­cal to end farmer de­spair? It changed the method­ol­ogy of cal­cu­lat­ing farmer sui­cides.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.