Indian politics has always taken a piggy ride on caste, creed or religion as the plank to reach the Legislative Assembly or Parliament. Sadly, most of the political parties have even failed to fulfil the manifestoes, through which the electorates have showered them votes as mandate. The verdict of five states on December 11, 2018, came at the back-drop of various farmers protests. The Congress President Rahul Gandhi had assured that if his party is voted to power, it will waive off farm loans within 10 days, thereby managing the score of 3-0.
Although the Political Pundits did not consider the recent election result as the resurrection of Indian National Congress in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, but simply as the anti-incumbency of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as the remaining two states – Telangana and Mizoram too saw BJP performing badly.
As of now, Rahul affirmed his party’s commitment to waive off farm loans in all the three states, who has just appointed the Chief Ministers, with Bhupesh Baghel for Chhattisgarh, Ashok Gehlot for Rajasthan and Kamal Nath for Madhya Pradesh. However, it is still a humungous task for the Congress to fulfil all its promises as the countdown for the 2019 Lok Sabha General Election begins.
Kamal Nath sprang into action within first hours and Gehlot the very next day had waive off the loan, in the case of Rajasthan, the Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot had justified the delay stating that the Congress government is looking into some permanent solution and not just the temporary relief.
The selection of all the three Chief Ministers by Rahul is keeping in mind the party assurances to waive farm loans.
Meanwhile, through the tweet, Gandhi had earlier stated that the Congress party has managed to wake up the Chief Ministers of Assam and Gujarat from their deep slumber, while PM is still asleep. His party will wake him up too.
It may be mentioned that the Assam government on December 19, 2018 announced Rs 1,000-crore schemes to boost the farm sector in terms of waiving loans to the tune of 25 per cent and announcing incentives to help the distressed farmers.
Reacting to the tweet, Assam Finance Minister Dr HImanta Biswa Sarma said the Congress President has failed to respect sentiments by linking it to petty politics, as Assam government has not announced any debt waiver scheme, but offering 25% subsidy on short term agricultural loan along with full interest subvention. These schemes will continue unlike a one-time loan waiver.
Former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan, while releasing the report titled ‘An Economic Strategy for India’, claimed that farm loan waivers should not form part of election promises and that he has written to the Election Commission to put a bar on such a practice, which inhibits investment in the farm sector, as well as putting pressure on the finances of the concerned states.
It may be recalled that Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi while interacting with selected farmers from various parts of the country through the Narendra Modi App on June 20, 2018 claimed that the income of farmers in India has increased and also doubled in many cases, due to various initiatives taken by the National Democratic Alliance government. He also stated that the central government is working towards ensuring that the income of the hardworking farmers will double by 2022.
Modi justified this claim by saying that this could be achieved as the central government is facilitating proper assistance whenever required. Also, his government has ensured facilities such as Soil Health Card, good quality seeds, fertilizers besides electricity, water and markets.
Meanwhile, in the midst of the second phase of farmers’ strikes from June 1 to 10, 2018 in Chandigarh and Pune, organised by Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh- confederation of National Farmers, the cultivators have stopped the supply of milk and vegetables to cities as they were demanding loan waivers and regulations of price index. None of these demands have been met.
The number of farmer suicides is also on the rise across the nation which defeats Modi’s claim that the income of farmers has increased. Modi’s claim comes at a time when major parts of the country are witnessing farm distress due to the heavy slump in crops prices and upcoming Lok Sabha general election in 2019.
In the past, the rise in onion prices twice had toppled the Delhi Congress government and also the UPA government of Dr Manmohan Singh. Understanding the seriousness of the impact, Modi claims that the farmers’ income has increased while at ground zero it is a different story.
The new state – Telangana, also claims that the state is marching ahead by keeping the farmers first. Their official advertisement showed the huge produces from the state and the happy community.
It is the same in the North Eastern Region, worst so in the monsoon season where greater Assam is under flood. Being the main transit point, and with the produce of other regions being limited as most vegetables are being imported from other states, all vegetables are being over charged.
Meghalaya has only a few cultivations, be it eggs to cattle, fish to vegetables, rice to edible oil, are all imported from other states. The local produce is not even meeting the local consumption. The little produce from the interior villages fail to reach the cities due to the absence of road connectivity and high cost of transportation cost, hence, agriculture, horticulture or farming are limited to communities or clans or for own consumption. Neither the state nor the central government had ever extended assistance to the farming community in Meghalaya.
The little harvests from the suburbs of the city are being sold by the farmers directly as vendors, and if any breakdown of Law and Order, they have to just throw away their produces as most of them are perishable produces. Under such circumstances, most of the youth refused to take up farming as a profession in Meghalaya.
Meghalaya, in the absence of production or manufacturing industries, is only focusing in transportation, tourism and hospitality industries, yet the human resources and skilled work forces are limited. The phobia of influx and the poor situation of the farming, where about 80 percent of the indigenous tribals are government employees, has burdened the exchequer of the government with meeting only the salaries.
There were attempts to adopt Ri Bhoi district as a model district for organic farming. But the farmers felt it is time consuming with less production and are not willing to take the risk, unlike Sikkim which is now the organic state in the region when it comes to agricultural produces, they have even thrown out the vegetables which are not organic.
It is time the government sensitizes the masses that agriculture is the main backbone of the state in particular and the nation in general. Since Modi claims that the farmers in the country are in a better status and hopefully will double by 2022, the Meghalaya government should take advantage of the schemes and improve agriculture, horticulture and even floriculture in the state.