Gujarat election results prove farm crisis will haunt BJP
The party seems to have forgotten the lessons from its 'India Shining' debacle in 2004.
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The BJP believes it has a lot to rejoice in its victory in Gujarat, even though it barely made it over the half-way mark. It seems the party has forgotten the lessons from its "India Shining" debacle in 2004.
The BJP has forgotten one more aspect - the farmers. And it is these farmers who are the biggest strength of the Congress. While the BJP’s dirty tricks department tried to "edit" a speech of Congress president Rahul Gandhi - where he was actually exposing the PM's comment on “aloo dalo aur sona niklega" - what it didn’t realise was that the farmers had heard Rahul Gandhi’s entire speech and concurred that lies were being put forth by the BJP.
The reason I make this comment is that a trying-to-sound-confident BJP is claiming that its narrow win in Gujarat has assured a victory in 2019. And that to me is a clear sign that the master strategists in the BJP are perhaps not reading the writing on the wall, especially the alarming signals emanating from Kutch Saurashtra.
Look at Gujarat and you see that it is in this rural-semi urban area of Gujarat that the BJP was given a bloody nose by the Congress which won 28 seats to BJP’s 19. It is a sure sign that "Bharat" is not shining. While urban India has been denied "achhe din" even after three and half years of BJP rule at the Centre, rural India is in deep distress.
The reasons are manifold and resonate across the border in rural Maharashtra as well. The BJP took a beating in the cotton- and groundnut-growing belt of Saurashtra. This is the same belt that helped the rise of the prime minister between 2002 and 2011, but is now clearly unhappy and showing it.
In my state, Maharashtra, be it soybean or cotton, the government has not paid farmers the commensurate procurement prices. In Latur alone, I have raised this issue several times with proof of how farmers are being turned away from procurement agencies because the soy they have produced is being classified as not meeting the parameters set by the government. Officials in these agencies have openly said that they cannot buy soy with higher moisture content because if they do so, they leave themselves open to inquiry.
Fully aware of the plight of soy farmers, hit by the double whammy of falling prices and vagaries of weather, should the government not have eased the norms?
Well they haven’t - which means soy farmers are resorting to distress sale at mandis and open markets and ruing their fate.
Farmers unions across Maharashtra have questioned the BJP’s promise of 2014, where he vowed to double farm production. Farmers are wondering that if they are unable to raise produce to levels they are used to how will mere words help them boost production? This at a time when the produce they are taking to market fails to generate income to keep body and soul together. The latest NSSO report shows that farmers are on an average earning Rs 7,793 and spending Rs 7, 727 a month. Surely, Rs 66 saved doesn’t spell "achhe din" in anyone’s book.
If that was not enough, farmers are paying an even heavier price trying to boost production through excessive use of pesticides. The toll from pesticide poisoning in Vidarbha is over 50. The current crisis arose after farmers mixed the insecticides or used them in higher quantities to increase their potency to increase yields in places like Yavatmal.
It is no secret that the tragedy unfolded as pesticides that were not recommended or those not to be used on cotton crop were sold to unsuspecting farmers as effective, again highlighting either government complicity or incompetence at the level of regulating these dealers.
It didn't end here. The Maharashtra state government then ordered a loan waiver. However, six months on, that hope too is belied, thanks to red tape and total lack of planning in execution of this large scheme. Reports are pouring in of how banks are grappling with data-mismatches and errors in records which have slowed the entire process. Every time there is a mismatch, the officials are obliged to send the beneficiary list back to the government for cross-checking.
What use is a waiver, if it fails to provide relief when it’s most needed? What use is promise of doubling produce and income if prices of farm yields are crashing? What use are regulations when they cannot protect one of the most important sections of our society - our farmers?