'Farmers have realised only agitation, not reasoning will lead to action': MS Swaminathan extends support to march

Professor MS Swaminathan, better known as the 'Father of the Green Revolution', spoke in support of the Kisan Mukti March (farmers' freedom march) in Delhi on Friday.

FP Staff November 30, 2018 14:30:28 IST
'Farmers have realised only agitation, not reasoning will lead to action': MS Swaminathan extends support to march

Professor MS Swaminathan, known as the 'Father of the Green Revolution', spoke in support of the Kisan Mukti March (farmers' freedom march) in Delhi on Friday. Swaminathan, an agriculture scientist who was in charge of a commission to study and suggest solutions for the growing farmer distress, said that "farmers have come to the conclusion that only agitation and not reasoning will lead to action on their problems".

The ultimate result of the research, which was conducted between 2004 and 2006, was called the 'National Policy for Farmers' (NCF) or the Swaminathan Commission report.

At least 50,000 farmers from all over the country have gathered in Delhi to protest against the dormant approach of the central and state governments towards the chronic problems faced by the community. Over Thursday and Friday, farmers under the umbrella organisation of All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) have made their displeasure with the Centre's agrarian policies evident in various ways.

Farmers have realised only agitation not reasoning will lead to action MS Swaminathan extends support to march

Representational image. PARI

One of the community's major demands, which was even put forward by the Kisan Long March which took place in Maharashtra in March 2018, is the implementation of the Swaminathan Commission report. As a means to this end, the farmers are demanding a 21-day special session of the Parliament. The farmers are also demanding the waiving of loans and an effective rate of minimum support price (MSP) on their crops.

Asserting that evidence of the agrarian crisis has been growing over the last decade, Swaminathan said in a statement, "The demand for loan waiver comes from the present non-remunerative nature of farming and is indicative of the fact economic viability is as important to farmers as to industrialists." He also said that an adequate MSP "will make farming economically viable and attractive" for the farmers.

The waiver of loans assumes significance for the farmers, according to Swaminathan, so that they can rid themselves of debt and get back to farming, however, only "by taking another loan". Swaminathan expressed unhappiness over the fact that "electoral politics" bring "solutions like loan waivers" into focus for a limited amount of time. He elaborated, "Only integrated attention paid to pricing, procurement and public distribution will address farmers' woes."

At least 60 percent of India's population uses agriculture for livelihood and this percentage is mostly made up of women and the youth, according to Swaminathan. This vast majority, largely ignored, has realised the discrepancy in the level of attention the government pays to its issues, and to problems of other sections of society. Swaminathan said, "Farmers have now understood that while the problems of the other sections of society receive continuous attention, their own problems tend to be neglected unless they agitate."

According to Swaminathan's statement, the government must bring out changes to its policies based on the "serious" repercussions of climate change as well. He said, "Compounding the difficulties of today, the most unfavourable impact of climate change will be high temperature, wide variation in precipitation and rise in sea level."

He added that "equal attention" should be paid to families living and working in different ecosystems like: Arid zones, semi-arid dry farming areas, irrigated areas, groundwater farming, and plantation crops in hilly areas. Swaminathan added, "The support extended to farmers should be according to the requirements of those cultivating in the above-mentioned ecosystems."

The Congress government led by former prime minister Manmohan Singh, however, "did not take action" on the NCF presented in 2007, Swaminathan said in the statement. He added that the reports under the NCF gave "a clear sense of direction" to shape the agriculture sector "based on farmers' welfare".

Referring to the AIKSCC protest, Swaminathan said, "The march has rightly called for a special Parliament session to discuss issues confronting those who provide us with sustenance. It is sad that farmers who are life givers are forced to take their own life due to economic reasons. I sincerely hope that today’s Kisan Mukti March will be a turning point in the history of public policy formulation in the field of agriculture."

In the statement, Swaminathan expressed hope that one of the suggestions of the NCF that the government did implement, which was to change the name of the agriculture ministry to 'Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare', would get "reflected in action". He said, "The change in name should get reflected in action designed to promote farmers’ well-being as the main purpose of agriculture ministries at the Centre and states."

A few of the suggestions made by the NCF were: To prevent the diversion of forest and agricultural land to the corporate sector for non-agricultural purposes; to set up a system to regulate the sale of agricultural land; to give farmers an MSP of  50 percent above the cost of production.

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