Farmers in the country are victimised by the inconsistencies in the agriculture development policy framed by the Governments both at the Centre and at the States. Remember, it is the peasantry that has erased the bad image of the country as hunger nation and has provided self – sufficiency on food front.
Despite being the welfare state and declaring the county, as the one endowed with agrarian economy, the Government started to neglect the reasonable welfare of the farming communities since the dawn of new economic policy in 1991, which caused severe hardship in their lives. Starting from 2000, due to the failure of agriculture and the lack of infrastructural facilities and input supply at reasonable costs, unable to overcome their debt burden, they committed suicides and left their families in lurch.
In 2014, the National Crime Records Bureau of India reported 5,650 farmer suicides. The highest number of farmer-suicides was recorded in 2004 when 18,241 farmers committed suicide. The farmers’ suicide rate in India has ranged between 1.4 and 1.8 per 100,000 of the total population, over a 10-year period through 2005. More than 2,000 farmers’ suicide cases were reported due to agrarian reasons in 2015 with highest number of 1,841 cases in Maharashtra alone, as per the data placed before the Lok Sabha. The actual number of farmer-suicides would be more than the record.
Agriculture is the only sector, where the farm gate prices of the produces are not fixed by the producer – farmers. No major breakthrough has taken place in the pricing policy of the Government in respect of agricultural produces.
To the extent, momentum gained through banks in granting loans to agricultural development, due prices for the produces were not fixed by the Government, making the farmer-borrowers unable to repay their loan dues. The responsibility of causing agriculture as a failing profession lies with the Government through its policies. Is it not the minimum duty of the Governments to give the relief to the suffering farmers? So far many political parties after assuming the ruling power have come forward and implemented agricultural debt relief schemes and have written off the loans granted but they still remain bad, outstanding in the books of the bankers. Such relief measures are akin to providing popcorn to the hungry elephant. When there is no turn around rectification in the agricultural development policy of the Government, the suffering of the farmers has been surmounting every day.
In Tamil Nadu, apart from the usual negative attributes to keep agriculture in negligence, the lack of prudence on the part of Union Government to resolve the Cauvery River Dispute, despite the concrete verdict given by the apex court of the country, the perennial river water fed cultivable land holdings becoming barren land stretch! Such a state of forbidden farm practices caused more than 250 farmer-suicides in the State. The functionaries of the farmers’ associations in Tamil Nadu, went to Delhi and protested through continuous demonstrations for 42 days in many innovative manners to capture the attention of the authorities to solve the persistent problems of the peasantry including the writing off the loans availed by the farmers from banks. The agitation was not even taken into cognizance, even without a space for the solution.
Whenever the demand for farm loan waiver is raised, the Centre regards the issue as a State subject. When the overall pricing policy framing in agriculture is vested with the Centre, how can the rectification exercise be relegated to the States?
During the past 11 years, public sector banks have written off their bad debts to the tune of about Rs.2,50,000 crores of which the share of 70 per cent is on the corporate loans. On this the Reserve Bank of India did not comment anything but simply endorsed the waiver exercise. But, when the demand for farm loan waiver is raised, the Governor of RBI says, the farm loan waiver is not possible, besides sermonising that such waiver would affect the morale of other borrowers who honestly repay the loans. How can RBI discriminate the farm loan waiver with derogatory comment with meek endorsement of big corporate loan waivers? RBI must be neutral to the welfare of all the segments of the economy. It should not echo the personal views of the rulers at the Centre. The Centre should not lead to a level wherein creation of nuisance value by the aggrieved farmers would only solve the problems. The Centre must come forward by shedding down its discriminatory approach and find ways to solve the agrarian problems, which become alarming day by day, of which farm loan write off accounts for a small relief. Let the relief be commenced by the Centre with the open minded approach!