2014 – The year of tragedy on the farm



In last week of December 2014 Newspapers and TV channels were busy with the year-end coverage of the events that dominated the media space in 2014. Pick up any newspaper or switch any TV channel, you will not even find a mention of the great continuing tragedy of the farm. It looks as if the other India does not even exist.

Agriculture engages, directly or indirectly, more than 70 per cent of the 1.25 billion population. We all know that agriculture continues to play a pivot role in rural economy howsoever bad it may be. But as I have been saying for long the fact is that agriculture has disappeared from the economic radar screen of the country. It has also disappeared from the media space. Popular economic discourse is aimed at destroying whatever remains of Indian agriculture.

In reality, agriculture is the only performing sector in India’s economy. Despite the neglect, agriculture is the brightest spot, with the growth rate bouncing to the magical figure of 4 per cent. Farmers continue to sweat it out to produce a bountiful harvest. Even with a delayed monsoon, farmers have achieved what was not expected. And yet they remain victims of a biased economic understanding, which refuses to value food self-sufficiency as the most important pillar of national sovereignty. Many economists want import tariffs to be further reduced to allow cheaper and highly subsidised imports. They scream shamelessly, and a section of the media plays it up using the argument of rising food inflation as the justification.

Studies after studies, and report after reports, have brought out the deepening crisis on the Indian farm. A study by the Centre for Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) “State of Indian Farmers” in May 2014 had said it very well. The study found that 76 per cent want to give up farming, and such was the crisis that roughly 58 per cent farmers were sleeping hungry. And yet, the government enhanced the minimum support price of paddy and wheat (and other crops) by a paltry Rs 50 per quintal. This does not even meet the rise in prices as a result of all round inflation.

Will anything change in 2015? I don’t want to sound pessimistic but I am not so hopeful. Unless the Prime Minister Narendra Modi diverts focus to rejuvenate the farming sector, makes an attempt to end the scourge of farmer suicides, and thereby makes efforts to turn agriculture economically viable and sustainable in the long-run, I don’t see any future. He has the mandate, and certainly he has the ability.

This can only happen if the public discourse shifts to resurrect agriculture. So therefore don’t blame the government or the media alone. You too are equally responsible. If you were to raise your voice, in whatever form you think you can do it, maybe through tweeter, facebook and what’s up, you will see that what you say will resonate. In a democracy, the public opinion is very important. It’s therefore your task too create a debate on the issues that are generally ignored. Continue to do that and you will see the focus returning back to restoring the pride in farming. #

Further reading:

1. India’s deepening farm crisis. Down to Earth. May 11, 2014

2. Intelligence Bureau Raises Red Flag on Farmer Suicides in its Report to PMO. Economic Times. Deec 23, 2014. http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2014-12-23/news/57349694_1_ib-report-farmer-suicides-crop-yield

3. Farmers suffer, others prosper. Orissa post. Nov 5, 2014

4. Smart villages, Mr Modi
Orissa Post, July 15, 2014.