RK Laxman, the famous cartoonist created the daily comic strip You Said It. His cartoons portray Indian life and politics through the eyes of “common man , a silent onlooker in a distinct checked coat who served as a point- of- view character for readers. The above cartoon, evidently addresses the condition of farmers. It is important to briefly go over this issue and highlight the reasons why the Indian farmer is suppressed. The Old Farmer This particular cartoon, speaks volumes. It shows the farmer being completely sidelined in many aspects. He is well versed in his ways of farming.
Over the years he has gained tremendous knowledge on soil and fertility, weather conditions, seasonal crops for fruit, vegetable and grain. Hence as seen in the visual, he is quite uninterested in the discussions in progress. He is not consulted in the talks going on. Probably his views will not count at all, in any developments of the farm. He seems to be lost to the current trends. In the past ,India became a nation that thrived on agriculture. Currently the economic contribution of agriculture to India’s GDP is steadily declining. The Improvements Committee for FarmingOrder now
The groups of 4 high level government officials show their theoretical knowledge, with their approach. One has a few files, another seems to study the soil, and a third is giving his input on the latest farming technology. The head of the delegation, is listening to the input very seriousness. In all this the poor farmer is totally neglected. He has only his plough, and innate knowledge to guide him in traditional methods. Lastly R K Laxman’s common man, is the wise one, and in the end looks up to the sky, as if in prayer, for good rains, and moderate weather to provide good crops.
Stress on Modern Technology Have we forgotten the farmer’s benefits and concerns, with the onset of latest technology? Reasons for shift to modern technology; irregular rain, increase in population ,Green revolution, industrialization, commercialization,urbanization. All these factors cause a strain on price and demand of land causing farmers to resort to new techniques. Monsanto is a clear example of modern developments. The question is, how are they aiding the farmers? ` In the Vidarbha region of central India,1300 cotton farmers took their own lives in 2006.
According to Vandana Shiva (environmental and anti-globalization, activist) every seed that is in the market in cotton today, is linked to one company or another, licensed and controlled by Monsanto. Peasant farmers used to use natural fertilizers and pesticides and they grew and saved their own seeds. In the 70s coaxed by the government and several international aid donor, farmers began to use hybrid seeds bought in the store. These offered the promise of better yields and disease resistance but they required careful management including chemical fertilizer and pesticides.
More recently genetically modified,BT cotton seeds were introduced by Monsato,licensed and sold under the names of several Indian seed companies. BT seeds must be bought every year from seed companies ,which market them with film stars and even Hindu deities. Gradually, the farmer realizes that his new crop is not as disease resistance as the AD said. According to Vandana Shiva the innocent farmer is grabbed by the agent, promising him a miracle seed that would perhaps double his income. The farmer is unaware that within 2 weeks he would require pesticide and when his crop start shriveling up, he will be advised to take a tube well loan.
The government claims to be committed to increasing the acreage under irrigation, in the region but that inspires little confidence on the ground, according to farm activist Kishore Tiwari. Tiwari’s organization tallies and posts pictures of the grim suicide toll in Vidarbha. He says the government priority has been the new urban high-tech based economy. These Dangerous Trends, affect the farmer as well as society. His entire dependency is on the provision of fertilizers, pesticides, less revenue and more expense, thus leading to bankruptcy.
Sadly the government is well aware of the effects of Monsanto, but it almost seems like the government is hand in glove with these companies, and turns a deaf year to the marginalized farmer. Involvement of middlemen in farm product distribution- multiple channels of distribution eat away the pockets of both farmers and consumers. The government funding of farmers is still at nascent stage and most of the small farmers still depend on the local moneylenders who are leeches and charge high rate of interest. There are too many vultures that eat away the benefits that the farmers are supposed to get.
Although we say that technology has improved but it has not gone to the rural levels as it is confined to the urban areas alone. The only solution is, to generate a new distribution network that connects the farmers directly to the consumers to get maximum returns as the present channel of distribution involves multiple mediatory who take away the major portion of profits which otherwise the farmers is supposed to get. It is important to look at government schemes that went downhill affecting farmers. Government plan for water supply through dams, have been only on paper, some half way done, and some not at all.
In all this, large funds are misused. The following examples, highlight the corrupt actions of several government officials. According to a recent report on NDTV (dated April 18th,2013)by Tejas Mehta, farmers in Maharashtra are being battered by drought. A stinging report by the state’s auditor blamed the government for grossly mishandling irrigation projects. The comptroller and auditor general established the fact, that nearly 400 canals and dams were left incomplete, inspite of the costs shooting up by thousands of crores. The concerned officials, were complacent, they did not pay heed to the concerns about dams that have run dry.
Some officials had to make apologies for their unjust remarks on this issue. Is the actual situation of the farmer addressed or are these schemes only on paper. That question remains unanswered. Another dam issue of growing concern is the Narmada Valley Development Project. It is the single largest river development scheme in India. Known to be one of the largest hydro electric projects in the world. According to Arundhati Roy,1. 5 million people will be displaced. The environmental costs for the construction of 3000 large and small dams are immense.
The state claims to be building these dams in the name of National development. The question is ,How can you measure progress if you do not know what it costs and who has paid for it? In all this, the poor farmer is left helpless. His agricultural fertile soil, is degraded due to continuous irrigation and salinization making the soil toxic to many plant species. The biggest of their fears is the Sardar Sarovar dam construction which if completed,will flood more than 37,000 hectares of forest and agricultural land, displacing more than half a million people and destroying some of India’s most fertile land.
It is a shocking issue because, those not entitled to any compensation are those, whose lands or livelihoods are affected by project related developments. Several ivasis,farmers,environmentalists and human rights activists started a movement called the Narmada Bachao Andolan(NBA). This movement is lead by Medha Patkar and Baba Amte. According to Arundhati Roy, “Big dams are to a nation’s development, what nuclear bombs are to its military arsenal. They’re both weapons of mass destruction. ) Another example that highlights the unfortunate plight of the farmers is, the public distribution scheme.
The public distribution scheme for grain is mishandled and the farmer is least benefitted. A quick glance at this Food Security Bill, explains how its flaws affect the farmers to a large extent. The Food Security Bill promises to alleviate hunger and guarantee very cheap food to India’s poor but there are concerns about how it has not been properly thought through, and could become unsustainable. According to PK Joshi (South Asia director of the international Food Policy Research Institute) this bill is a good attempt by the government to ensure food and nutritional security for people who have no access to food at reasonable rates.
One very glaring error is, identifying the people entitled to subsidized food. The most difficult question is, what are the indicators of poor and who is REALLY poor? The bill expects the state to provide the list of the poor, but every year the concerned officials come up with different numbers. Another blatant error on the list, is the unanswered question about having enough food to cope with the demand created by the bill. What happens when a drought or a flood hits? If this situation prevails and climate change takes place, what is going to happen? n all this, let us not forget the fate of the unfortunate farmer. The very low prices of the subsidized food will distort the market and farmers who cannot sell to the government assured program will lose out on the open market because prices will be forced down. According to the director of the IFPI,the only solution is to help the poorest of the poor, as opposed to targeting 50% of the urban population and 75%of the rural population. The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).
Although this scheme was introduced to eliminate unemployment, but its impact on agriculture is another story. Farmers argue that this scheme is actually driving agriculture into an epic crisis by tightening the rural labour market. Besides pushing up labour costs, this scheme has increased labour scarcity, spoilt the work culture of labour and encouraged farmers to invest in farms. The government did not expect to deprive the farming sector of labor,especially during sowing and harvesting periods.
Due to the unavailability of labour,farmers are forced to shift to non labour intensive horticulture crops or leave the land fallow. All this ,trickles down and ultimately affects even the urban segments of society, as this shift has a devastating impact on food production. The Consortium of Indian Farmers’ Association (CIFA), suggests that the only way this situation can be reversed is, by providing farmers the required labour only when they need them the most so that the laborers can be employed for a longer period in a year.
Farmer’s Loans: farmers are forced to take loans to purchase high tech requirements for their crop, most of the time the farmers are coaxed into taking these loans, unaware of the purpose because they are not literate. So, what caused farmers to shift to completely depending on the government and international companies for sustenance? the main reasons would be, over- population, irregular rainfall, green revolution, modern technology, industrialization, commercialization urbanization, strain on price and demand for land caused the shift.
It is evident that the farmer, who was once the Lord of the land is now reduced to a mere voiceless, unrecognized,unthought of, puppet. They are literally driven towards suicide. In most situations in the country, the people in need are neglected. While those in authority, have the upper hand. Solutions are not catering to the current well being and growth of the concerned sections of society. The gap between the rich and poor sections of society is widening and the rich get richer whereas the poor suffer.