Situation demands a lasting solution to agricultural crisis
Once more this year, on 29th-30th November 2018, tens of thousands of farmers marched on to Parliament. They assembled on 29th November at Ramlila Maidan. On 30th November, they marched to Parliament with their demands.
The farmers were from Punjab, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Odisha. They had converged on the national Capital for the Kisan Mukti March organised by the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, a coalition of around 200 large and small farmer groups from across India.
They reiterated their principal demand that they be paid remunerative prices for their crops. Farmers across the country have been agitating for this for decades. They also demanded a one-time loan waiver without which hundreds of them and their families will be ruined.
Successive governments have turned a deaf ear to their demands or made promises that have not yet been fulfilled. Today, the farmers are very angry with the present government and have demanded that Parliament hold a special session to discuss the agrarian crisis. There are already two Bills pending for discussion - The Farmers' Right to Guaranteed Remunerative Minimum Support Prices for Agricultural Commodities Bill, 2018 and the Freedom from Indebtedness Bill, 2018 that were introduced in Parliament.
The demand for remunerative prices is a very just demand. Farmers must receive an assured income so that they are assured of their livelihood, with which they can support their families and plant for the next season. At present, all across the country, farmers are left to the mercy of traders and volatility of prices in the mandis, which generally fall short of their cost of production. The central government and/or the state government announces a Minimum Support Price (MSP) at which the crop will be procured, but when the crop comes to the mandi, the farmers are forced to sell at prices way below the MSP. Various state governments and the central government have announced many schemes that promise to compensate the farmers for this gap between the actual price and promised price, but every one of these schemes has turned out to be a huge scam.
Farmers have also been demanding protection from damage to their crops due to drought, heavy or unseasonal rain and pests. The Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) was announced by the Modi government as a cure for this. But the scheme has turned out to be yet another fraud.
The experience of the farmers over the decades and their dire condition today clearly points to the need for a fundamental solution to this crisis of Indian agriculture. Agriculture is an essential economic activity that provides society with its most basic need. It is the responsibility of the state to ensure a secure livelihood to the producers and the availability of food and essential items to the working population in good quality and at affordable prices.
For this to happen, the state must organize procurement of all crops at assured and remunerative prices. This requires investment by the state in setting up markets where the farmers can bring their grains, other food crops and vegetables. Public procurement requires investment in procuring and storing the items in modern facilities and investment in wholesale distribution of the produce across the country and retail distribution to the final consumers.
The state has to further invest in organising for quality inputs at affordable prices that producers require for production. It has to ensure protection or insurance in the event of damage to the crops due to natural and other causes.
This will require a fundamental reorientation of the economy, where those who produce are assured of security and well-being, where the working population in the countryside and cities who are producing non-agricultural goods are able to get quality food and essential items at affordable prices. Such an economy will be oriented to ensure sukh and suraksha for all the toilers.
This is the essential condition for taking Indian agriculture out of the present crisis.