Dr Anushka Kulkarni
Current situations demonstrate the agrarian crisis plaguing the nation where farmers in most parts of our country are agitating for demands like appropriate remunerative prices and loan waiver schemes. As a remedy, and to stop the protests, the government has announced loan waiver packages in states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
The case of Maharashtra
The decision of loan waiver superficially looks as a correct measure to ease the distress amongst farmers. But as per the study by ‘National Commission on Farmers’ and the Swaminathan recommendations that followed, this step will just be a short-term solution to the problems faced by the farmers. Swaminathan Committee recommendations clearly indicate that loan waiver is also not a solution to reduce suicide rates amongst farmers. Thus, by ignoring the recommendations of the committee, states like Maharashtra have declared a loan waiver scheme named ‘Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Krishi Sanman Yojana’ of Rs. 34,000 crores.
Maharashtra is already facing a debt situation. The budget that is allotted for the loan waiver scheme will come from the money allotted for developmental activities of the state. The state will hence not have enough budget to undertake developmental activities in the country and will also not be able to invest in recruiting manpower. Apart from this, the major demand of the farmers through the agitation is to implement the recommendations of the Swaminathan report. The key demand in the report is that the farm prices have to be set at 50% of the input cost which is completely overlooked by the centre as well as the state government.
Peaking farmer distress and agitation
Despite the drought in southern states, there was a good harvest this year. But the major question which arises is that, in spite of a good harvest this year, why is it that the farmers have agitated? The freefall in prices of farm goods and demonetisation are the two major reasons for the current distress in farmers.
The Indian economy grew by 7.2 percent, whereas the agricultural income grew by 5.2 percent. Statistics show that agriculture has been a major contributor to the Indian economy. Bountiful harvest and low price resulted into farmer’s agitation. The farmers know what to do, what to produce and where to sell. All that farmers need is a good remunerative price for their produce. With this, if the country does not have a leadership that is a pro-farmer one then the level of agitation could increase.
If we look back at history, what happened when we moved for liberalisation was that we expected our farmers to get a good price for their produce which will be of international standards.We chose to liberalise our economy and felt that the international prices would benefit our farmers. But the international prices are influenced by many factors and a lot of intermediaries. To what extent farmers are ready and can play with this volatility is a big question.
The basic things that a farmer requires are fuel, pesticides and seeds. The prices of these commodities have increased ten-fold due to inflation. However, prices of the farm produce have not increased enough to offset the increase in input prices.
What will happen if M S Swaminathan becomes the President of India?
In the midst of unrest, Shivsena suggested the name of MS Swaminathan for the post of the President. It appears to be a politically correct move which will help them to build in trust of farmers and also help our agrarian country to develop. MS Swaminathan is known as the Father of Green Revolution and is a geneticist and an international administrator. He has changed the world’s second most populated country to one that is self-sufficient in food. His direction in the improvement of high-yielding varieties of wheat in the nation is recognised worldwide. For a country like ours, a pro-farmer leader would help in the advancement of our agrarian country.
The implementation of the Swaminathan report will be an extraordinary step for the country. If loan waiver is not an alternative to solve farmers suicide, then Swaminathan knows the options to stop it. MS Swaminathan has prepared a report for the betterment of the lives of farmers.
Shiv Sena President, Uddhav Thackeray, says—“As the country grapples with farmers’ rage across Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Haryana, Swaminathan will be a perfect choice”. This leadership will help to ease the farmer’s problems.
Lessons from previous presidential leaderships
APJ Abdul Kalam’s nomination for the post of President changed Indian politics for good. That too was a political step to gain people’s confidence, but the result of it was good for the country’s growth. Kalam was not aligned to any political party. He was the people’s president. The country could face a similar situation if MS Swaminathan becomes the President of India.
Previously we had political leaders like Mahendra Singh Tikait, Chaudhary Charan Singh and Jayprakash Narayan who had worked for the development of rural India. When the political leadership of our country is pro-farmer, Indian farmers will be in a good state and the agriculture will flourish. Electing Swaminathan as the President will be a good turn for the country in this regard.
Michael Lipton’s Theory of Urban Bias
The question regarding why does the Indian rural still face problems is partially answered by Michael Lipton’s theory of Urban Bias (1977). Lipton in his theory mentions that the policies for rural are set by the people sitting in the urban areas and, thus, there emerges a bias. The distress continues as development was designed by and for people in urban areas. Election of MS Swaminathan as a President will help to reduce the divide between rural and urban as he has studied rural India thoroughly, and his decisions will not thus be biased.
The issue which still remains is that presidency in India is not an executive one and the President has no direct influence on the matters of government policy. So, there are two questions for which the country has to wait for an answer: first, who will be the new President of India and will the farmers benefit from his leadership; second, will he implement the Swaminathan Committee recommendations which will help in solving farmers’ problems.
Featured Image Source: Visual Hunt
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