Farmers in India are known as “annadata” meaning “the provider”, but when the same “annadatta” decides to turn away from you, where can one go? The context is the recent decision by farmers to go on a 10-day strike holding up supplies of dairy products, fruits and vegetables to various cities.
Farmers from seven states—Haryana, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala—have intensified their protest for three demands. First, a complete waiver of loans, second, a minimum support price for their crops and third, an affirmation from the government for a guaranteed minimum income scheme.
The farmer’s association Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh has named this rouse as “Goan Bandh”.
Although farmers have promised not to block highways, they have decided to hold sit dharnas or sit-in protest and cut off supplies of milk products, fruits and vegetables to cities. Visuals of farmers spilling gallons of milk in streets, dumping fruits and vegetables across roads and highways can be seen on several news channels and portals.
The way the protests are being carried out in the name of farmers raises several eyebrows. What if instead of wasting these edible products, they were donated to orphanages or in lieu of cutting supplies to cites they were routed to army camps in extremely remote areas, either ways their objective would have been achieved and through a novel way of protest, their already high stature would have grown manifolds.
The fact is, the entire outcry seems to be an eyewash and the real motive tent-poles around the politics of 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Of the seven states, Rajasthan, Haryana, MP, Maharashtra are BJP bastions while Karnataka, Punjab are Congress-ruled states and Kerala, a CPI(M) strong hold which in past had been an ally of the Congress during the UPA-I regime.
Rajasthan and MP would soon go for state assembly elections while in Maharashtra, the much disgruntled Shiv Sena has been striving hard for the smallest opportunity to corner the BJP in the state. Interestingly, Mandsaur of MP was the hotbed of farmer agitation in 2017 which witnessed death of seven farmers in police firing when their stir turned violent. Since then political parties and their affiliates have been trying to encash on the sentiments of peasants, painting the government in the state and at the Centre as anti-people.
The objective is obvious. Farmers form a considerable chunk of vote bank, if any party is successful in convincing them that their outfit was the sole savior of farmer’s interest in the country then a smooth road to Assembly/Loksabha win may be ensured.
India is predominantly an agriculture-based economy much dependent on monsoon. The community of soil tilters in the country is the most humble section of the society and gets easily swayed by politicians. They must remember that no matter whichever party is in power, a complete fulfillment of their promises would be a mirage. A classic example is Karnataka Assembly Elections wherein each party had promised to wave off farmers loans within 24 hours of coming to power, has anything been about it? Possibly no.
A better way would have been to take a delegation of farmers to the highest authority in the government, table their concerns and discuss a way out rather than holding up supplies and wastages.
What may be foreseen as nod from the government would be a waiver of some portion of loan basis merit, as small-scale farmers may be the most hit compared to the well-to-do ones. Also, the government may call for a discussion on minimum support price and permanent minimum income scheme but till then citizens must brace for impact at least for the next nine days.