The politics of the country has ignored farmers and it is time for them to change the politics of the country to extricate themselves from the state of utter hopelessness
Agonizing; demeaned, disturbed and distressed; shaken and unnerved; duped, deceived and deserted; forsaken and forgotten; disgraced, dishonoured, humili-ated and discarded; and, yes, depressed; some hopelessly suicidal….
These are not synonyms from a dictionary for effect. These represent the emo-tions and pain afflicting the farmers across the countryside and those of their compatriots trudging all the way from Nasik to Mumbai. The politics of the country has ignored farmers, maybe it is time for them to change the politics of the country.
The farmers’ march was not merely the result of some unfortunate events of drought-induced falling yields, aggravated by low farmgate prices; no purchases at the announced MSP; unkept crop compensation promises for cotton, failure due to pink bollworm; the infamous notebandi; disrupted cash flow from cow slaughter ban; opposition to land acquisition for ‘Samruddh Maha Marg’ and fi-nally, the sheer disbelief of the falsified government report that blamed the tor-mented farmers themselves for their horrific pesticide deaths. Notably, the aforementioned feelings do not express anger, hate and rage.
This will owe itself not only to on-farm distress but, in a larger measure, will stem from the hurt and betrayal from broken promises. The heartless govern-ment in Mumbai is no better than the communists, who chose to give each marching farmer a red party flag affixed to a stick instead of giving them each a pair of slippers. The visual impact would make Gobbles proud. For the democ-racy that India is though, it was humiliating that the sight of bruised and bleeding farmers’ feet was not enough to move the young Maharashtra Chief Minister from the comfort zone of his chair to meet the farmers halfway.
He waited for the momentum to collapse in the scorching heat on the melting tar roads to Mumbai. The state had misread again for the resolute farmers did reach Mumbai, only to be duped again. Last year’s verbal assurances of farm loan waiver have not materialised and this time written assurances of C2+50 per cent and forest rights for forest tribes given to gullible farmers may meet with an identical fate. Party spokesperson’s describing the marching farmers as urban Maoists finds resonance in John Steinbeck being accused of being a communist for writing the ‘Wrath of Grapes’ a sorry saga of uprooted tenant farmers in the midst of the great depression of the 1930’s.
Year 2017 saw a farmers’ agitation in Maharashtra (refer to my IE article ‘A Dark Satire’, June 20, 2017) that was a precursor not only to this gathering of solidarity but also to the Madhya Pradesh police firing on the agitating farmers in Mandsaur. The sands of Shekawati in Rajasthan saw farmers digging themselves into them. This week also marks the anniversary of the Nandigram killing of farmers in West Bengal for refusing to be cowed-down by the communists seek-ing to snatch their multi-cropping land for industry. That revolt led to the over-throw of the three-and-a half decade communist rule in West Bengal and pro-pelled a new party, the Trinamool to power.
In 10 long years that NCP and the Congress were partners in crime, around 36,000 farmers committed suicide in Maharashtra alone. It is equally true that Chief Minister Fadnavis did inherit a grand mess but after over three years in power, he cannot escape accountability for his deeds and the farmers aching re-vulsion.
The same story reverberates at the centre. After four years in power, apart from smarter sloganeering and repackaged programmes, nothing has changed on the ground. The farmer has realised that it was not intended to. The voluminous, nearly 2000 pages of a 14-volume ‘Strategy for doubling farmers income by 2022’ is still work in progress. The promises of acche-din, doubling farmer in-comes, Rs 15 lakh in each bank account, crop insurance or the promise of C2+50 per cent profit have all turned into a horrible nightmare as the empire reneged on the election assurances.
Being in power in the states and at the centre has its disadvantages, there is no one to heap the blame on save the ghosts of the past. A meek media made ame-nable by combination of coercion and inducements can no longer deflect the public ire from the core issues of livelihood. This is amplified by a string of elec-toral defeats. Across India, young dejected farmers are sadly resigning to their fate. Wanting to flee the farms and aspiring for jobs elsewhere, the youth now have the bone-chilling shiver of realisation it is not to be.
Lies, deceit and broken promises have become the hallmark of all political par-ties; more so for the current regime. Fed up with the confused and much ma-ligned UPA II, farmers — in fond expectations that their aspirations would be fulfilled — had voted in overwhelming numbers for the strong leadership of Mr Narendra Modi. The last beads of hope are fast disappearing.
Many organisations, including the Bhartiya Kisan Sangh (an RSS affiliate) or the Bharat Krishak Samaj, have constantly warned the government of the impending storm but to no avail. The establishment has now been woken up from its deep slumber to the fact that its policies have aggravated the misery and distress on the farms. It has reacted by promising to purchase crops at announced MSP prices, imposing hefty import duties and such other handouts. With elections ap-proaching it may be too late in the season to sow a good harvest.
The farmer’s angst is not difficult to gauge, abandoned by a pontificating leader-ship, farmers have decided who not to vote for though. They are still undecided about who deserves their vote. Of late, the Congress party has not been part of any farmer movement in the nation but ironically may be well placed to capture the discontent. I take solace in the words of Steinbeck who responded to the critics by stating: “I want to put a tag of shame on the greedy b……s who are re-sponsible for this”.