ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Unquiet Fields

Farmers in India are angry over betrayed poll promises of doubling farm incomes.

In the run-up to the 2014 elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) made extravagant promises of doubling farm incomes, generating large-scale employment and bringing back black money. The fate of poll promises is no secret in this country. However, the difference with this government is that it also promised a leader who actually delivers. Thus, the otherwise forgiving and forgetting citizenry, pumped up on the projection of a hyper-masculine, hyper-efficient leader, has assumed the burden of reminding the leader of his self-proclaimed agenda. This explains the quandary in which the BJP finds itself as it confronts the countrywide agrarian and livelihoods crises, even as its demonetisation histrionic appears to be unravelling at the seams.

The ten-day historic strike by farmers in Maharashtra and adjacent Madhya Pradesh (MP) caught the country in general and the BJP in particular by surprise. The hitherto unassertive, unorganised mass of farmers across the rural expanse transformed into a veritable political force overnight. The striking farmers have reaffirmed the need to implement the structural reforms proposed by the Swaminathan Commission, and to offset the immediate setback of reduced prices for farm produce following demonetisation and a bumper crop. The problem of a surplus crop in the affected region has come after two years of intense drought. Thus, this agitation has emerged from the relatively well-irrigated and prosperous Pune and Nashik divisions of Maharashtra, and Ujjain division of MP, and not the drought-prone and highly impoverished Marathwada and Vidarbha or Chambal and Bundelkhand respectively. Apart from the vagaries of nature, agriculture in India overall has been in deep crisis. Rising input costs and falling output prices, dwindling government support and increasing market instability, decreasing size of landholdings and falling productivity, have led to reduced farm incomes, making agriculture altogether unviable. Small and marginal farmers, tillers, landless agricultural labour and those living on the margins of the agrarian economy are the worst affected.

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Updated On : 27th Aug, 2017

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