Hyderabad’s Siasat Daily reports that tens of thousands of farmers joined the Long March from Nashik to Mumbai last week, organised by All-India Kisan Sabha. The main demands included:
- debt abolition,
- an adequate fixed minimum support price for their produce
- the right to land ownership for the tribal cultivators as part of the 2006 Forest Rights Act.
Narendra Modi’s government agreed to resolve the farmers’ issues within six months and irrigation minister Girish Mahajan said that the government has agreed on 100% of demands, including transfer of land title.
However, in November farmers held huge nationwide strikes to demand agrarian reforms and despite government promises to address their issues, not much was done and tribal lands have been taken by the government for high speed rail and highways.
Devinder Sharma sees a pattern: “For the first four years after coming into power, all ruling parties simply ignore farmers, often creating economic conditions that force them to abandon agriculture and migrate to the cities”.
He stresses that an unprecedented spurt in rural anger has been seen in the past few years with recorded incidents of farm protests multiplying by a staggering 670%, from 628 in 2014 to a record high of 4,837 in 2016 and asks:
“Will the ensuing 2019 elections see a change? I am not sure. Unless of course the farmers realise that enough is enough . . . For 70 years, they have been taken for an easy ride by politicians of all colours, from all parties. They have been victims of the universal phenomenon of “elections and farmers”. A few carrots are invariably thrown at them as electoral bait. And they grab it just like the mice is unable to resist the cheese. They have never been seen as the mainstay of the economy in real terms. Farmers have only two roles – as a vote bank and as a land bank”.
Despite the undertaking given, Sharma adds: “I don’t think the political parties are unduly perturbed. They know that a few months before the elections, a series of sops can be dangled before the farmers and their vote bank will remain intact”.
As around 60–70%% of the Indian population (directly or indirectly) depends upon the agriculture sector according to Puneet Bansal, the director of forecasting and strategy at DRG Group, they could, if resolved, affect the outcome of national elections.
Sharma’s conclusion: “The day the farmers rise above caste, religion and political ideology and vote as farmers, the political landscape will change. The economic policies will also change the day farmers vote as farmers. Farmers will then be in the driving seat, becoming the pivot of economic growth and development. Till then, they must learn to live with the never ending agrarian distress. They must know that the survival battle they fight every day is actually their own doing”.
Read the whole article here: http://devinder-sharma.blogspot.co.uk/2018/02/if-bounties-are-being-showered-for.html, or in Hindi https://www.gaonconnection.com/samvad/in-election-season-farmer-is-just-a-vote-bank
Additional information: https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/india-after-huge-marches-government-agrees-farmer-demands