Loan waivers by the govt will ben­e­fit the farm­ers


nti-Na­tion­als. Ur­ban Maoists. Nax­als. Anar­chists. Not Farm­ers, “just” Adi­va­sis. Not 25,000 only 7,000.

These are some of the ways in which Ma­ha­rash­tra’s farm­ers, trib­als and agri­cul­tural work­ers have been la­belled and tar­geted, ac­cord­ing to most news re­ports. Some­where be­tween 25,000 and 50,000 ar­rived in Mum­bai on Sun­day night. The Long March, as it is be­ing called, started 180 km away from In­dia’s fi­nan­cial cap­i­tal, in Nashik.

Through the sear­ing heat, these farm­ers walked, ask­ing that elec­tion and other prom­ises made to them be ful­filled. They were ac­cused of cre­at­ing prob­lems for stu­dents and com­muters as they got closer to Mum­bai. So rather than in­con­ve­nience any­one, they walked through the night so that they could reach their des­ti­na­tion be­fore the city went to work.

Mum­baikars came out in large num­bers with food, wa­ter, footwear for these brave men and women. One of the or­gan­is­ers of the march was quoted as say­ing that peo­ple had been so gen­er­ous that the truck of pro­vi­sions, which they had brought with them was still full of food. Sev­eral news­pa­pers and news web­sites car­ried pho­to­graphs of blis­tered, bleed­ing feet.

So, why did the peo­ple of Mum­bai care so much and give of their own to these anti-na­tional Nax­als? Were all these gen­er­ous cit­i­zens of Mum­bai “Ur­ban Maoists”? Or were they just hu­mans who have not lost their em­pa­thy for the suf­fer­ing of oth­ers? Who un­der­stand that In­dia’s farm­ers are go­ing through some of their worst times? And, per­haps they un­der­stand that agri­cul­ture is still the back­bone of much of In­dia. Per­haps these are peo­ple closer to the ground than all our pun­dits and TV ex­perts.

And, what does one make of an In­dia where peo­ple are so blinded by po­lit­i­cal ha­tred that they look at a bleed­ing foot of a peace­ful pro­tester and see an an­ar­chist? The big­gest crime that these marchers com­mit­ted was that they marched un­der red flags, that the or­gan­is­ers of the march be­longed to Leftist par­ties. To be Leftists and to un­der­take a peace­ful march is not against the law in In­dia — yet.

In fact, every other po­lit­i­cal party should be kick­ing them­selves for not or­gan­is­ing it them­selves. Most po­lit­i­cal par­ties did sup­port the farm­ers and did help along the march. Ex­cept the one party, which tagged these marchers as anti-na­tional, of course.

Farm­ers across In­dia have been bur­dened by the weight of loans, by en­forced buy­ing of seeds, by lop­sided sub­si­dies, by poor ir­ri­ga­tion fa­cil­i­ties, by pric­ing poli­cies and by po­lit­i­cal machi­na­tions with land clas­si­fi­ca­tions. The last two bad mon­soons have added to their mis­ery. We all buy their pro­duce even as we know the farmer gets al­most noth­ing and the mid­dle­men skim off the bulk. What does a farmer’s fam­ily go through when he kills him­self for a debt bur­den of R1 lakh when Ni­rav Modi coolly flies off with loans worth R12,000 crore? What does a farmer feel when every small ben­e­fit he gets from the gov­ern­ment is a vote-get­ting “sop” while every cor­po­rate tax cut is for “devel­op­ment”?

This march will not solve or end all these prob­lems. Al­though the Ma­ha­rash­tra gov­ern­ment has promised “yes yes” to the de­mands made by these “Maoists” and “anar­chists” (words from BJP min­is­ters and sup­port­ers), don’t hold your breath that ev­ery­thing promised will be re­ceived. Sev­eral poli­cies for help with ru­ral dis­tress do not cover land­less labour­ers and those who farm on rented land. The bu­reau­cracy is now in charge of mak­ing these “prom­ises” come true, so a slow pace is most likely guar­an­teed.

For us, the cit­i­zen, how­ever, this march should be an eye-opener. It is not the only protest by farm­ers in re­cent times nor is it the first. But, since this has touched a chord, the onus lies with us not to shift fo­cus or get dis­tracted by a con­stantly-chang­ing news cy­cle. These are our peo­ple, they feed us and they have been cheated again and again by gov­ern­ments and gov­ern­ment agen­cies. Prom­ises are made again and again and al­most none are kept.

And, for every per­son you know, who talks about sops for farm­ers, re­mem­ber all those tax hol­i­days which large cor­po­ra­tions get, and the enor­mous debt which pri­vate com­pa­nies have with pub­lic sec­tor banks. Our money, by the way.

And, please take a sharp look at those who think that farm­ers who ask for what is promised are anar­chists. Hope you don’t have to look in the mir­ror for that. This refers to ‘This is not the end’. The Ma­ha­rash­tra gov­ern­ment has promised to ad­dress all the farm­ers’ de­mands in a time bound man­ner, amid a ris­ing wave of sym­pa­thy for them, in­creased me­dia at­ten­tion and pres­sure ex­erted by ri­val par­ties. It is notable that loan waivers will ben­e­fit the farm­ers.

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