New Delhi saw a large number of people gathering on November 29-30, people who came to say that they stand with the country’s farmers in their hour of crisis. The Dilli Chalo protest not only comprised farmers but students, workers across the organised and unorganised sectors, white collar job holders, teachers, lawyers, people from various walks of life.
The demonstrators had a unique demand - that the Indian Parliament hold a special session to discuss the agrarian crisis. Rural India, which houses around 70% of India’s population, is plagued with acute debt. The despair has driven millions to penury and thousands to suicides. The demand of the farmers’ for a 21-day-long joint parliamentary session dedicated to the agrarian crisis is a demand for the country’s political class and particularly its rulers to take farmers’ plight seriously.
The apathy of the Narendra Modi-led BJP government towards farm sector woes is clear. Farm sector growth has tanked from 5.2 percentage point growth during the years of UPA-II to 2.5%. While key relief measures like MGNREGA and Food Security Act have been neglected by the government, the trajectory of unemployment in non-farm sectors has been upward, thus preventing farming people from venturing into other professions when farming in itself has become an unsuccessful proposition.
With demonetisation, the Prime Minister has heaped immense hardship on rural India. The decision taken at the juncture of the reaping and new sowing season prevented farmers from access to their hard earned savings
The farmers have also demanded that two private member bills be passed. They are The Farmers Freedom from Indebtedness Bill, 2018 and Farmers’ Right to Guaranteed Remunerative Minimum Support Price for Agricultural Commodities Bill, 2018. These were part of the electoral promises made by Modi before the general elections of 2014. The number of rural households comprising landless, small and marginal farmers with less than two hectares of land has gone up from 77.53% in 1971-72 to over 93% in 2017.
Also, the number of farm labourers in the agriculture sector, according to the Agriculture Statistics of 2017, is far higher than that of the cultivators. This shows the need for growth of those sectors in the economy which are manpower-intensive as farming is no longer a viable employment option. But Modi’s India has taken the trajectory of jobless growth of the economy to an altogether new level.
With demonetisation, the Prime Minister has heaped immense hardship on rural India. The decision taken at the juncture of the reaping and new sowing season prevented farmers from access to their hard earned savings. Unable to secure credit from banks, etc. which went into a tizzy, many turned to moneylenders which in turn put them in a deadly debt trap.
Modi has talked big on doubling farm income by 2022. To do that, the agriculture sector has to register a year-on-year growth of over 14% instead of the current 2.5. Instead of making false promises to farmers, the Prime Minister must first give India’s farmers some much-needed succour in forms of immediate relief.