Driving through villages and towns and being repeatedly checked by a few sun-burnt men in green turbans, has been an interesting experience in many states of the country. These men have set up informal barricades to prevent any middlemen or traders from transporting fruits and vegetables to the city for selling at exorbitant prices. This has the direct effect of urban populations visiting rural areas to buy farm produce first hand, without the exploitation of middlemen fooling farmers out of their crops.
Moreover, such personal experiences have also been evident in the shortage of milk, cottage cheese, vegetables and fruit as the basic constituents of our staple diets, implicitly ascertaining the importance of farmers to the national economy and not just as a political plank or vote bank.
The fury of sugarcane farmers against the Yogi Adityanath government for its false promises, the nationwide bandh successfully organized by farmers’ unions on 10th June, and the direct impact of food shortage have removed the illusory veil of apathetic self-sufficiency from the eyes of the urban dweller.
As a result, in some regions of India, farmers have become more than a rallying point in statistical reports in newspapers, to a highly deprived and marginalized community oppressed by decades of unconcerned policy-formation and occasional attention during election time. The 10-day long farmers’ strike centred around the issues of farm loan waiver, free power, the implementation of the Swaminathan Committee report which suggested 50% profit to farmers for their produce, a higher minimum support price, cap on import of farm produce and increase in import duty etc. (India.com, The Times of India). Led by the Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh, this strike witnessed farmers destroying their produce in desperate protest—spilling milk on the streets, crushing fruits and vegetables, and preventing other farmers from participating in the exploitative market economy. Alok Deshpande explains that good monsoons during 2016 ensuring sound crop yield were followed by demonetisation and currency crunch, due to which the Rabi crop was not sold at much profit.
This also threatened central cooperative banks, the backbone of many village economies, and spurring these demands by the farmers of Maharashtra, with other states having similar issues. While the opposition parties have wholeheartedly supported this protest, ruling party activists have attempted to thwart it in whatever ways possible. According to India.com, “Bharatiya Kisan Union Madhya Pradesh general secretary Anil Yadav said it was the fear of the police which led to the failure of the agitation.” The farmers do not want to get into the wrong books of police. Thousands have been forced to sign bonds of Rs. 25,000 and BJP workers among the farmers and members of the RSS-backed Bharatiya Kisan Sangh were active in sabotaging the strike.””
The tragedy of this state of affairs lies in how crushing the protest is considered more important than registering the reasons for farmers to seek such measures, inviting conversations with union leaders, clarifying their demands, and negotiating acceptable goals for parties concerned. However, as was evident during the uncontrolled and barbaric shooting of anti-Sterlite protesters in Thoothikudi, the main motive of political regimes seems to focus on absolute control and repression, slowly edging towards dictatorial rule. The welcome accorded to protests and strikes as means of strengthening our democratic fabric and reworking the notion of people’s representation as not only necessary during elections, but as an everyday mechanism of governance, has been dismissed by the force of bullets.
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar is reported to have claimed, “They don’t have any issue; they are just focusing on unnecessary things through this strike. Not selling produce will bring losses to the farmers only,” edifying the public about the government’s lack of concern.
This also comes in the wake of the Nirav Modi and Vijay Mallya scams, creating public awareness about government inaction and possible collusion between the ruling party and big industrialists. This anti-farmer mood has been emboldened by the government not meeting its promises to the farmer community as written in its election manifesto.
The vision of a farmer-friendly government is rapidly fizzling out, making the Hindutva dimension of gaining the trust of the majority of the population as the main election strategy for the 2019 elections.
Contributed by Tript
Picture Credits: Sukeindia.com