In the run-up to 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his campaign had spoken about Indian farmers.
He assured the farming community that his government would remain committed to their cause. The farmers believed India’s ‘Pied Piper’ who played the ‘jumla tune’ and got the farmers thus to vote for him.
Sweet Dreams: Prime Minister Narendra Modi with sugarcane farmers. (Photo: Twitter/Narendra Modi)
In my view, the government, however, failed to fulfil the commitments made to the farmers.
The first betrayal, as many saw this, came in the form of the ordinance to amend the Land Acquisition Act, 2013, denying farmers their rightful claim to their land as envisaged by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA).
The ordinance sought to take away the rights of farmers to give their consent before the government decided to take away their land. The 70-80 per cent consent clause in the 2013 Act was proposed to be done away with.
The ordinance wanted to do away with social impact assessments, a clause that would entail carrying out detailed studies to see the environmental impacts of projects and the rehabilitation status of affected people. This was opposed tooth and nail by the Congress and it forced the BJP to withdraw the ordinance.
Searching for Support: The Modi government failed to declare several states as drought-affected. (Source: Reuters)
But this was only the beginning of a series of betrayals of promises made to the farmers.
The second betrayal was denying farmers timely drought relief. The Modi government was repeatedly pulled up by the Supreme Court for its seemingly disinterested response to nation-wide droughts in 2014-15 and 2015-16.
Not only did the Modi government not declare a drought, but also limited its response to merely revising the eligibility cap for compensation and barely raising the compensation amount.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has repeatedly shrugged off farmers’ demand for loan waivers by calling it bad economics.
This is hardly an example of standing by the promise to aid and assist farmers.
The third betrayal was the promise of a minimum support price (MSP), which is 50 per cent above the input cost.
Despite the rhetoric, Narendra Modi hasn't fulfilled promises made to the farmers of India. (Source: AP)
If we take into account the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) data, the promise of MSP 50 per cent over cost of production is far from the truth. With the increase in costs, factoring in the current inflation, the MSP announced is approximately C2+15 per cent for paddy, C2+20 per cent for ragi, C2+19 per cent for moong, etc.
C2 essentially includes the imputed cost of capital and rent for land cultivated.
This has been confirmed by agricultural scientist MS Swaminathan himself, who drafted the Swaminathan report on the basis of which PM Narendra Modi made huge promises to the farmers during his 2014 campaign speeches and even later.
This is one of the main reasons why farmers across the country are agitating today — but it appears the Prime Minister has been more busy attending wedding receptions than listening to them.
The fourth betrayal, in my view, was PM Modi’s Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY), which was supposed to benefit farmers — but ended up reportedly benefitting the insurance companies. The PMFBY apparently became a jackpot for private insurance companies in two years, with the difference between premiums received and compensation paid reaching nearly Rs 16,000 crore in just two years. The scheme also failed to enthuse farmers. In just four BJP-ruled states, over 84 lakh farmers reportedly exited the scheme after just a year.
The fifth betrayal was the promise of doubling farmers’ income by 2022. The promise was made with flamboyance but apparently forgotten as PM Modi saw the electoral ground slipping beneath his feet.
In reply to a question asked during the ongoing winter session of Parliament, Minister of State for Food Processing Industries, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, said that the government is not working on any plans to double the income of farmers.
The Congress in its election manifesto in the three state of Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh had promised a farm loan waiver within 10 days of forming the government.
The Congress government provided farm loan waivers in three states within days of coming to power. (Source: India Today)
The party fulfilled the promise within a few hours of coming to power — a move that will benefit 81 lakh farmers of the three states.
A large population in India depends on agricultural activities and for them, agricultural credit is an important support. The country has seen the crisis and challenges the farming community has been facing. The country’s farmers have time and again approached the Centre and state governments for help.
Unfortunately, the BJP governments — both at the Centre and in states — have largely ignored them.
There is no denying that this attitude towards the farmers has led to huge agrarian and rural distress that has forced many farmers to commit suicide.
Farm loan waivers have emerged as a solution to this problem. In the long run, however, every government understands that it isn’t the final solution or the only solution to resolve the agrarian crisis.
It is time we have a focused policy initiative to address agrarian concerns, whether it is to ensure electricity supply, water supply, fertilisers, better support prices or strengthening the food supply chain to make our farmers self-reliant.
It is time we brought our focus and attention back to a community that feeds us — and today, needs us.
The country will be well-served if we ensure our farmers fare well.