Op-Ed: Why Farmer Uprising is here to stay?
In the month of March, India saw a very strong and disciplined march of farmers from Nasik to Mumbai. Hailed as Long March, it won hearts of many as it was unique in many sense. Unique the way it was planned and executed and farmers won the hearts of many by not disturbing the life of common mumbaiker during the last day of their walk. Almost 40,000 farmers walked together for 6 days and covered more than 200 kilometers forced government to succumb to their demands yet all these happened without disturbing the city life, without violence and without damage to public property commendable indeed. Long March as it is hailed across the media platforms is certainly an aberration of the way we used to see bandhs been observed and is a sanitized attempt to redefine the legacy of pro-people and political protest in India.
Even though Long march gathered maximum public attention, thanks to the glances of major media houses who covered this march, many other similar farmer movements are ongoing across India does not get echoed in mainstream media very often. While farmers of Odisha is fighting since last few years and asking government to ensure Price, Prestige & Pension for all the farmers, farmers of MP also recently took a long March from different parts of the state to the state capital. Yet these failed to attract coquettish glance of national media. History also has witnessed another big farmer protest in recent past as at the fag end of 2017, under the common umbrella of All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), around 184 farmer groups from across states such as Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, and Telangana participated in the protest walk. These are just a few of the major farmer unrest country has recently seen. The peasant protests it seems is an integral part of our society and builds the terra firma of political uprising in modern India too.
Wherever the place may be, whatever the time may be, a dissection of all these farmers protest leads to identification of common genes among all of them. The farmers in India has been fighting with provincial and national government on the issues around increasing minimum support price for their products and increasing their nets, providing amenities like functional cold storage warehouse, a faster transport system, marketing facility for their products waiving of loans during distress period. These issues are almost pre existing even before the advent of Britishers to India and the peasant class has risen above their usual caste structure and protested whenever they got a chance.
Pre-Independence India has seen many peasant movements. To put it straight and simple, the freedom struggle was largely contributed by peasant class. The Mappila peasant rebellion; Gandhian Satyagrah in Champaran, Khera and Bardoli; and Tebhaga struggle in Bengal were largely a reaction of the oppressed peasantry to the British colonial land tenure system. Even though after Independence this farmer uprising subsided for few years, yet it showed its face around the foretold issues time and again.
With climate change looming large to affect our agriculture and government not ready to take up structural reforms and investing on resource generation on agriculture, the unrest seen among the peasant class is sure to stay. Farmers committing suicide almost every day in India & rising cost of Input has only added to the woes of Peasant class so far.
While agriculture continues to be the mainstay of Indian economy and 18% of Indian GDP, India cannot but over look the issues related to fair pricing of agricultural products etc. The Swami Nathan Committee report is also gathering dusts in government’s vault. The agricultural growth, which is languishing at 1.2% per annum, is also not sign of progress in any case. Most of the schemes aimed to benefit farmers such as loan waiver, input subsidy or buyback of crops are either siphoned by middle agent or are only designed in a manner to support farm agents, banks or agricultural insurance agencies. The farmer comes last in the process and is least benefitted. The climate change related disasters and poor marketing price during the peak of the production remain crucial challenges which the country has failed to overcome.
Nothing much has been accomplished in recent past as far as farmer’s achievement is concerned. While the input cost has risen significantly over the years, farmer continues to struggle to raise the per capita productivity. Similarly, a farmer continues to commit suicide in every 30 minutes in India. The coverage of land under irrigation is very slowly increasing whereas we are losing fertile agricultural land to industries and other allied activities at a much faster rate. Slipping of agriculture from the largest contributor to the third largest contributor to the GDP is an indication that Agriculture is fast losing its prominence in Indian economy. With people opting to join secondary and tertiary sector, India is no doubt facing a strong challenge in feeding its teeming million in times to come.
Since long it’s the peasant class who has contributed significantly to the freedom movement and nation building process, yet have not gained out of the movement significantly. The current state of agrarian crises, lop sided income from agriculture and not so pro people agricultural policy indicate that long- standing demands of the peasants are likely to continue in India. The farmers protest is most likely to continue further and strain our socio-economic fabric. The long march is certainly not an exception.
(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)