The following editorial from an Indian website exposes the hardship that poor Indian farmers face due to unfair agricultural policies. Ethiopia as one of the countries that ‘lease’ fertile lands to foreign investors with minimal conditions, its poor farmers have so much in common with their Indian counterparts; Ethiopia’s current agricultural policy highly benefits more the ‘investors’ than the farmers who soon or later might follow the path the Indian farmers have taken, such as suicide, unless the government takes a swift measure to reverse its drastic policy; the government must first protect its people’s interests.
Dearth and Death in Farmlands
18 Jun 2009
The intensity and magnitude of the agricultural crisis in our country is unprecedented. Though, most educated Indians are by now aware of the uninterrupted spate of suicides by distressed Indian farmers in the last two decades, yet, concern and empathy for our unfortunate farmers and their families are conspicuously missing in the urban India. Worse, a kind of sadistic indifference to farmers’ suicides is visible among the ‘privileged’ ones. Nothing could be more shameful than the mysterious silence of judiciary and media when the ‘Annadata’ of the nation is forced by unbearable poverty, debt and hunger to take his own life.
It is no secret that increasing marginalisation of small farmers, caused by faulty agriculture and economic policies, would be catastrophic for the nation. Yet, the government seems to have no intention to change and correct its policies responsible for the disaster in agriculture. Instead, it is taking recourse to the policies that would only aggravate the present crisis. Apparently, there is a complete blackout among the policy makers about what’s going wrong. They seem to believe that by suppressing the enormity of the crisis, the nation can possibly get rid of it.
If proper steps were not taken immediately to check the worsening condition of farmers, the spread of Naxalism would go beyond control or repair. Naturally, the sense of despair and anger among farmers is just the kind of fertile ground that Naxal ideology needs to grow on. In fact, if intelligence reports are to be believed, majority of young recruits in the Naxal movement are jobless and hopeless farmers. Though, it has been downhill for farmers for almost two decades, the conscience of the nation is not yet troubled. It is crucial to wake up before the rising unrest among farmers takes the nation by storm.
It is high time our governments realize the gravity of situation and stop taking decisions regarding agriculture on the advice of multilateral agencies and big corporates, domestic or multinational. Every one of these has its vested interests in farmer’s increased misery, so that he is forced out of farmlands and corporates can move in to replace him. Contrary to what our politicians and bureaucrats like us to believe, industrialisation of agriculture and introduction of modern technology will not solve the crisis. It is important to reduce the number of people dependent only on agriculture, but where are the alternative jobs? Driving farmers out of farmlands through policies like contract farming and import of foodgrains is easy, but rehabilitating them in remunerative occupations is not so easy, for the simple reason of huge size of our farmers’ population.
If corrective steps are taken, we can still achieve a hunger-free India within two years. But, surrendering agriculture to corporates will create a crisis of unseen magnitude for the nation. Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru remarked soon after our independence in 1947 that everything else can wait, but not agriculture. If agriculture goes wrong, nothing else will have a chance to go right.