Under the burden of rising costs, marketing challenges and an unhelpful government, the Indian farmer is now caught in a cruel irony where he feeds others but has no food for his own family. Even more baffling is that despite numerous schemes and laws to help the farmers, very few of the intended beneficiaries feel the impact of these, bringing into focus the disconnect between the ploughing and the ruling classes.
"Who is there to hand hold the farmer to self-sustainability? In India, 3/4th of the farmers do not get benefits from government schemes. In our country, 80 percent of the farmers are small and marginal. So they are left out of the these schemes even though the country has Rs 8 lakh crore credit for farmers. The truth is if farmers are not consulted, the states cannot plan effectively for their development," Bharat Krishak Samaj, chairman and Farmers' Forum, editor Ajay Vir Jakhar told CNN-IBN during a panel discussion.
With the Lok Sabha Elections 2014 approaching a first of its kind survey was carried out by Lokniti-CSDS for Bharat Krishak Samaj holding over 11,000 interviews and 5,000 of them specifically with heads of farmer households. Among those interviewed were 4,298 women and 2,116 youths. The survey was conducted in 18 major states and was spread across 137 districts.
Congress spokesperson Salman Aneez Soz did not agree that the government schemes can be termed a failure at one stroke but in cases where there are lacunae, he preferred to pass the blame to the implementing agency -- the state governments.
"From a situation where we were importing food grains, India is now the largest producer of rice and wheat. There is a big chunk of people in the middle who may be left out of the Central schemes. But then the Central schemes are implemented by the state governments. I also agree that we need to communicate much more effectively about our flagship schemes," Soz said. However, the Congress representative agreed that some states are doing a good job no matter who is governing it. "Some BJP states, some non-Congress non-BJP states are also doing well," he said.
National Convener FIFO and BJP member MJ Khan took a political stance on the issue trying to push the UPA into the corner.
"During NDA rule, prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had inaugurated a television channel for agriculture but it was shut down by the UPA. The agricultural growth is good in the BJP ruled states like Chhattisgarh, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat recorded double digit growth," Khan said.
The response was quick from Congress' Soz. "Rural distress during the NDA time was tremendous because of which the BJP lost the election in 2004," he said.
Left economist Prasenjit Bose chose to bend all the claims made by the Congress and the BJP.
"You have a situation where the government is claiming that there has been tremendous growth in agriculture under the UPA. The BJP is also claiming that the BJP ruled states are doing better. But the fact is the success of the growth rate is not transforming on ground. These figures do not connect to the reality," Bose said. He also rejected the idea that Indian agriculture needs investment from abroad.
Firstpost editor-at-large Dhiraj Nayyar agreed that the farming sector needs more funds to prosper but had a different take on it.
"Inflation takes away what the government is doling out in schemes like MNREGA. The problem is big farmers are doing well but small and marginal farmers suffer. The question is not about foreign direct investment or local investment. The sector simply needs heavy investment. Instead of doling out at the time of adversity, it is surprising that the government is not pushing for an agricultural insurance to protect the farmers. It is not the time to for political parties to think what they achieved but what to do next," Nayyar said.
Jakhar also supported the proposition.
"The question of doling out only arises because farming is not a profitable profession," he said.
Updated Date: Mar 12, 2014 07:53 AM