What is the cause of the crisis of agriculture? What is the way out?

Submitted by cgpiadmin on Fri, 01/12/2017 - 17:19

An unprecedented mass united protest of peasants from all over the country took place on 20th November, on the eve of the winter session of Parliament. It was organised by the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, an umbrella body of 184 peasant organisations. Their demands included a one-time waiver of bank loans to farmers and guaranteed public procurement of all crops at minimum support prices, of at least one and a half times the average cost of production, as recommended by the Swaminathan Committee.

It is indisputable that the insecurity of livelihood of those who till the land has reached unbearable levels. Every year, one section of peasants become poorer because of crop failure caused by drought, floods or pest attacks. Another section becomes poorer in spite of enjoying a bumper crop because their selling price has fallen below their cost of production. While their incomes decline, the debt they owe to banks and money lenders keep rising. The combination of falling incomes and rising indebtedness drives many peasant farmers to suicide every year.

Who and what is responsible for the crisis?

Life experience of the past 70 years shows that the capitalist path of economic development cannot secure livelihood to those who till the land. Capitalist growth, led and dominated by the monopoly houses, is the root cause of the crisis of Indian agriculture.

For the past 25 years, the Congress, BJP and other parties of the capitalist class have been competing to implement the openly anti-social program of globalization, liberalization and privatization. Agriculture has been increasingly integrated with the global market. State support for farmers has been cut back. Big capitalist companies have expanded their presence in the market for agricultural inputs and outputs. This has led to an unprecedented level of insecurity of livelihood for the vast majority of peasants.

For the first few decades after 1947, the Congress Party led the implementation of the Tata-Birla plan of developing state monopoly capitalism. While it was marketed as a “socialistic pattern of society”, it was capitalism which grew all over the country. The big capitalists became bigger and enormously rich. A minority of capitalist farmers in selected regions experienced some prosperity for some years, resulting from the Green Revolution. Workers and toiling peasants remained poor and exploited to the bone.

For the past 25 years, the Congress, BJP and other parties of the capitalist class have been competing to implement the openly anti-social program of globalization, liberalization and privatization. Agriculture has been increasingly integrated with the global market. State support for farmers has been cut back. Big capitalist companies have expanded their presence in the market for agricultural inputs and outputs. This has led to an unprecedented level of insecurity of livelihood for the vast majority of peasants.

The most recent National Sample Surveys show that less than 6% of all farmers in the country are able to sell their crops to government agencies and receive the officially prescribed Minimum Support Prices (MSP). State support is benefiting only a small minority of those who cultivate wheat or paddy. The announcement of MSP for other agricultural products do not amount to anything because there is no public procurement at all. The vast majority of peasants have no choice except to sell their produce to private traders and middlemen at rock bottom prices. The prices they receive is less than one-fourth the final selling price in retail shops.

Those farmers who enter into a contract with a big capitalist corporation are at its mercy. They suffer whenever commodity prices decline in the world market. For instance, exports of wheat, maize, cotton and oilseeds rose rapidly until 2013 and many farmers expanded the production of these crops for sale to exporting companies. However, between 2013 and 2016, the price of wheat in the world market fell by 47%, maize by 39%, soybean by 25% and cotton by 18%. The cultivators of these crops suffered enormous losses and sunk deeply into debt.

The average price paid by farmers for seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and other inputs has increased by 77% between 2009-10 and 2014-15. However, the average price they received for their crops went up by only 52% in that period. As a result, net income from farming declined. Crores of peasants have become poorer than before, even though India is said to be growing faster than most other economies of the world.

The crisis of agriculture is aggravated by the uneconomic size of farms being tilled by the vast majority of peasants. More than 80% of all agricultural households operate farms less than 5 acres in size. Most of these poor peasants cannot afford to transport their crops to the nearest mandi. In spite of toiling hard they receive a price which is much less than the average price, which itself is not remunerative.

Yet another factor that is aggravating the situation is the monopoly capitalist orientation of the banking sector. When the big capitalists do not repay their loans on time, the Government rushes to their assistance; but when farmers are unable to repay their loans the banks threaten to seize their assets. Thousands of crores of rupees are allocated in the central Budget to bail out the capitalist defaulters whereas farmers have to launch mass protests for months on end before they get even a partial loan waiver.

What is the way out?

Only a socialist reorientation of the economy can ensure secure livelihood to all those who till the land. The entire process of social production of all goods and services must be reoriented to ensure secure livelihood and prosperity for all the toiling people, instead of being geared to maximise monopoly capitalist profits.

Central and state governments must take responsibility to create a public procurement system covering all food and non-food crops. They must ensure that peasants are provided with agricultural inputs at affordable rates and all farm output is bought by public agencies at stable and remunerative prices. They must connect the public procurement system to a public distribution system geared to ensure the availability of all essential consumption goods at affordable prices for all. Workers’ and peasants’ organisations and people’s committees in the villages and towns must monitor the public system and ensure that there are no leakages caused by private profiteering interests and corrupt officials.

All international trade treaties which harm the interests of our workers or peasants must be annulled. Both foreign trade and domestic wholesale and large-scale retail trade must be nationalized and reoriented to serve the goal of ensuring prosperity and protection for all. That would eliminate the harmful role of private traders and capitalist companies from the sphere of agricultural input and output trade. It will then become possible to narrow the huge gap which exists between the retail prices and the prices that peasant producers receive for every kilo of rice, wheat, dal and other agricultural products.

Replacing capitalist competition with socialist cooperation is the only path to overcome the uneconomic size of plots and ensure prosperity for all peasant households. The central and state governments must encourage and support the creation of collective farms, through voluntary pooling of land by peasants, so as to increase agricultural productivity. They must ensure that the collective farms are provided with modern technology and machinery for free or at low affordable rates.

The functioning of state owned banks must be reoriented towards ensuring secure livelihood for farmers and all the working people.

The Congress, BJP and other parties of the capitalist class compete with one another for the chance to manage the government and implement what the capitalist monopoly houses have decided. They are trained to make false promises to the peasants. They pretend to be against the government’s policies when they are in opposition. When in power they faithfully implement the program of the capitalist class headed by the monopoly houses.

The only political force that can carry out the measures needed to lift Indian agriculture out of crisis is an alliance of the workers and peasants, under the leadership of the working class. Such a force has to take political power in its hands, like it did in Russia 100 years ago.

Workers and peasants have to become the rulers of India, displacing the capitalist class from that position. Only then can the socialist reorientation of the economy be carried out. Only then can all those who till the land be guaranteed secure livelihood and steady progress in their living standards.

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agriculture    crisis    All India Strike    Dec 1-15 2017    Struggle for Rights    Economy     Rights     2017   

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