I still remember my road trips from Jaipur to Delhi on weekends. My mother had to pack food everytime as there was no restaurant on the entire route. Now things have changed. NH8 has a number of malls and food chains including MC Donalds and CCD. These restaurants leisurely replaced the farm lands on the highway.
This depicts the plight of farmers more than anything else. The farmers near Delhi have an opportunity to sell their lands instead of killing themselves. But all Indian farmers are not that fortunate.
Aamir Khan’s Peepli Live is an apt satire on the current situation of Indian Farmers. The movie addresses a number of issues which need to be seen in the light of reality.
Indian Agricultural Setup
Indian Agriculture predominately dependent on nature. Any failure of nature adversely affects the farmers. Additionally our agricultural system is largely unorganized. The farmers work in an unsystematic manner. They lack technical support and institutionalized finance. Agriculture is treated as a seasonal occupation in the country. Farmers remain unemployed in some parts of the year.
There is barely any increase in the purchase price of the crops. However, the prices of inputs have hiked tremendously. This further contributes to the misery of an Indian farmer, who has no substantial income to meet his expenses.
Reasons for Farmer Suicides
Indebtedness is the major reason behind the farmer suicides. The loans taken by farmers can be divided into two categories:- personal and agricultural. The personal loans are taken generally to fulfill social obligations related to marriage and death. The agricultural loans are incurred for buying land, seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and setting up a bio-gas plant.
In absence of institutionalized finance the farmers take loan from money lenders at high interest rates. Their agricultural profit is insufficient to recover debts. Thus, they are continuously harassed by the money lenders for the recovery of debts.
The movie rightly points out that if an issue arises the legislators frame a “scheme”. But what about its implementation?
Presently the government offers a number of relief and insurance programs to the farmers. Under the said schemes the farmers are provided with loans on “low rate of interest” but ironically the benefits never reach them.
If a farmer defaults in payment of debts, the local police detains him for some time. The social embarrassment forces him to either sell his property or commit suicide. In Bundelkhand, farmers have even sold their wives and daughters to pay their debts.
It is largely contended that the schemes are implemented only on paper and not in reality. The benefits are availed solely by the rich farmers. The poor people are not even aware of the existence of such schemes. Issuance of a mere card or loan requires a number of formalities and documents. An uneducated farmer or a daily wage earner may not be able to successfully complete all these procedures.
1. Farmer Suicides 2. Sale of farm lands for commercial purposes. 3. Change of occupation by the farmers 4. Over-emphasis on cash crops over food crops 5. Issue of Indebtedness 6. Effective Implementation of Governmental Policies Possible Solutions
1. Dependency of agriculture on nature should be reduced. This can be done by effective implementation of water management techniques by the government.
2. The institutionalized funds should be made available to the maximum farmers. The farmers must be monitored and advised with regard to the utilization of such funds.
3. The farmers should be provided with technical support to enhance the agricultural productivity.
4. The World Trade Organization forced the India to decrease its subsidies whereas the developed nations have been privileged to provide agricultural subsidies to their farmers. India definitely needs to take some diplomatic actions at the world forum to protects its farmers.
5. Organic farming must be encouraged. The government must subsidize organic fertilizers instead of chemical fertilizers.
6. In 1998, World Bank’s structural adjustment policies forced the government to replace farm saved seeds with corporate seeds. The Indian farmers are forced to buy the high-priced seeds manufactured by the multinationals.
7. Farmers with small land holdings must be encouraged to pursue community farming.
8. The farmers should be provided with direct instead of indirect subsidies.
9. The excessive powers of the money lenders must be checked.
10. There is a need for social and cultural awakening with in the village communities. This may be done by providing elementary education and vocational training to the farmers and their families.
Indian farmers have remained an ignored entity since 1991. Their hard work is seldom appreciated by their compatriots. Ironically the people who provide us with food and cloth, are deprived of it. Usually, a farmer is the only earning member in his family; his death leaves his family in destitution.
If the issue remains unaddressed it is a large possibility that India would soon emerge as a food deficient country. Probably we would have Mc. Donalds on national highways but would need to import wheat from aboard for our daily consumption.