Mere Frog ki Shaadi – Mantras for crops, marriages for rain, why does government seek divine 'solutions'?
If in God the government trusts, whom do the citizens turn to?
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Goa has 40,000 hectares of cultivable land lying fallow. The yield per hectare for paddy, says one study, has dropped by 6 per cent from 2014-15 to 2016-17. The production of pulses during the same period came down by 26.6 per cent.
And to tackle this, one of the solutions the Goa government has come up with is: “Tapping the cosmic shakti through the third eye similar to Lord Shiv and forcing the energy to dilute the negative destructive sounds around the field, pushing the universe’s positive vibrations towards healthier seed germination”.
Aaj mere frog ki shaadi hai: Madhya Pradesh MoS for women and child development Lalita Yadav at the not-quite-monsoon wedding of two frogs in Chattarpur. Photo: ANI
For this wondrous phenomenon to come to pass, farmers need to meditate in their fields and chant “Om rom jum sah” for at least 20 minutes a day, says the state agriculture minister Vijay Sardesai. This method has been designed by Dr Avadhoot Shivanand, a former chemical engineer turned godman from Gurugram, as part of his Shiv Yog Cosmic Farming project.
Barely a fortnight earlier, the Madhya Pradesh MoS for women and child development, Lalita Yadav, attended a wedding ceremony of frogs, performed to appease the rain gods.
There is, of course, nothing wrong in attempting to enlist divine help. Rituals and beliefs for plentiful rain and a bountiful harvest have been part of farmers’ faith systems across the world.
The problem is when the government starts relying on such methods.
The farming crisis in India is a very real problem, snatching away thousands of lives every year. The government is supposed to provide tangible, provable solutions that work for followers of every religion, agnostics, atheists, all. If the government is relying on God, who are we supposed to rely on?
And before anyone gets prickly about “criticism of Hindu beliefs”, it is not the government’s job to promote any kind of beliefs. India, as our Constitution spells out, is a secular state, and official sanction to superstitions, in a country where quacks and witch doctors are still hampering medical care and tantriks are apparently influencing entire families to commit suicide, is extremely dangerous.
Goa: Misplaced zeal
Goa’s agriculture minister Vijay Sardesai, when quizzed about his novel initiative, told The Indian Express: “There is no money involved and, as an agriculture minister, I will explore every method to increase interest in farming. If you convince me a rock show or a beauty contest will also help get people excited about agriculture, I will pull it in the middle of the fields.”
While his commitment to the cause of increasing “excitement about agriculture” is admirable, everything else in the statement is worrisome.
Come All Ye Faithful: Goa agriculture minister Vijay Sardesai's trust in the method is strong, though its foundations seem weak. Photo: PTI
The minister should not be waiting around to be convinced about the benefits of rock shows and beauty contests for farming. It is his job to be looking for scientific, workable solutions.
The claim about no money being involved seems rather suspect as well: training workshops have been organised for farmers where a “curriculum on meditation” has been distributed, WhatsApp tutorials are being spread, and the agriculture department has been tasked with “identifying plots in the state which allow for alternative farming methods”.
The minister’s belief in the method, though strong, seems to be founded on rather weak grounds: “I don’t think we (Goa government) personally need to study as Central Government has listed it in their programme. They must have studied all that, no? Besides Babaji has his firm spread across the globe. He preaches all this abroad,” Sardesai said with touching innocence, when asked if he had studied the efficacy of the method.
There are some simpler, more obvious things the minister should be concentrating on — these include promoting the mechanising of farming, so that cultivable plots lying fallow can be put to better use, and the repair and maintenance of the bunds that prevent salt water from entering fertile fields. These are only two suggestions and they don't involve Babajis.
One does hope Sardesai displays the same amount of zeal on more earthly fixes to the troubles of the land.
It is his job description, after all.
Madhya Pradesh: Festering crisis
Matters in Madhya Pradesh are far more grim. The state is the third highest in the country in terms of farmer suicides. While the number of farmer suicides went down between 2014 and 2016, the figures in MP actually saw an increase — a 21% jump from 2013 to 2016.
A match to please the heavens: The frog couple bound in holy matrimony in Madhya Pradesh. Photo: PTI
MP saw widespread farm protests last year, with five protesting farmers shot dead in Mandsaur.
This in a state which has long been hailed as a model for agricultural success, and recently won its fifth Krishi Karman Award, given by the central government. Madhya Pradesh is indeed both an agricultural success story and a failure, for where its earlier policies led to healthy farm output, the same state failed to deliver on administrative mechanisms to ensure a similarly healthy post-production pricing and distribution models.
The result has been, farmers in plenty of distress. In a land where they have created plenty.
Against this backdrop, a government minister attending 'frog weddings', in the hope of inducing rain for farmers in Madhya Pradesh, is doubly regressive for the state has been among the best performers in the country in terms of launching irrigation schemes that reduced farmers’ dependence on the monsoon. The government's message now seems to be that all that work, the science and human effort, can literally be thrown with a chant to the winds.
Instead of building on years of good work and concentrating on sectors that need strong fixing, the government is now apparently relying on frogs to please the rain god Indra.
That is fair neither to farmers, nor to frogs, who, after all, need the monsoon to consummate their marriage.