Need of the hour is to tackle farm distress

Before new economic era, agriculture accounted for 33% of GDP; today it is just 15%

The Narendra Modi government did well to come out immediately and announce that the government was ready with contingency plans for 580 districts, distribution of drought-resilient seeds, subsidised diesel, etc., to meet any eventuality arising out of the below-normal monsoon forecast by the India Meteorological Department. This was imperative since a section of the mainstream media and analysts thrive on negative news and alarmist conclusions, as though India has neither advanced nor changed. Besides, there are conflicting reports on the monsoon. A private agency, Skymet, has predicted the possibility of an above-normal monsoon and says the El Nino (originates in the Pacific and disrupts the weather pattern) effect will weaken by June.

The IMD, too, has said a clearer picture of the monsoon pattern will emerge only in June and that it is too early to be specific. However, the more important thing is to tackle farm distress. It is not as though there have not been crop failures in the past, but there has never been the suicidal distress seen in the last two decades. The reason is that whilst there was a new economic liberalisation for the urban economy, agricultural policies continued to be feudal — the handmaiden of industry and trade. So the Prime Minister’s tweet and “Mann ki Baat” about his being with the farmers and the need to introspect on what went wrong is meaningless because it is not that he does not know where he short-changed the farmer in the last 10 months.

He had in his election speeches and in the BJP manifesto promised to give farmers 50 per cent more over the cost of production as the minimum support price. He forgot this completely after coming to power. It was a matter of great distress to the farmers as, for instance, the prices of cotton dropped and the soya and cotton crop in Vidarbha and Marathwada were destroyed by unseasonal rain. One crucial issue of agriculture that successive pro-industry governments and bureaucrats don’t stress is that when agricultural prices drop, rural India is in distress because farmers not only have less money in their pockets but they pay higher prices for pesticides, fertilisers and seeds, all controlled by urban businessmen.

The government only thinks of cutting farm subsidies while increasing wages for the seventh time for “government servants”. Before the new economic era, agriculture accounted for 33 per cent of GDP; today it is just 15 per cent with 60 per cent of the population dependent on agriculture. It is hoped that the government’s contingency plans, promised subsidies and other help are delivered efficiently and effectively to the farmers.

( Source : editorial team )
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