INDIA’S AGRICULTURE MINISTER COUNTS ‘LOVE AFFAIRS AND IMPOTENCY’ AMONG REASONS BEHIND FARM SUICIDES

Now this is really crass and sounds blasphemous when it comes from the Agriculture Minister of India.

India is the world’s largest democracy.

It is also the world third largest economy.

It is now the fastest growing economy of the world.

It is also projected to have the world largest share of middle class by 2030, a ‘must’ market for transnational corporations and economies.

It is the founder member of the New Development Bank of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) grouping, an important global block of emerging economies with potential to drive the world economy (and the geopolitics). It also joined Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) this month.

It is a proven global power in space technology.

Its information-technology industry is among the best in the world.

India is being seen as a true global power. Nations across the globe are accepting it. Suddenly, Pakistan is no match for India. Until now, the comparison has been about how China is far ahead of India – especially on economic indicators – and therefore, the development they bring. Now, the analyses are mostly about how China is slowing down and saturating and how India is poised to become the next global economic powerhouse.

It has had a Narendra Modi led government since May 2014 that is seen excelling in promoting Brand India on different global platforms.

But, in spite of the all the claims and realities, India is still an agrarian economy – with number of people dependent on it.

But, in spite of employing some 55% of the populations, agriculture’s share in the national GDP has shrunk to just 14%.

In spite of the fact that GDP has expanded and services and manufacturing have major shares now, the share of people dependent on agriculture has not come down in that large a proportion. It means a GDP contributor that has seen consistently reduced pie in the overall chart has much more people to support than other sectors of economy. If we follow the simple logic of ‘supply and demand’, ‘supply’ of people dependent on agriculture has far outdone their demand for a resource that is growing scare in, i.e., land area has remained the same but has always been cursed to support an ever increasing number of population directly dependent on it. That leaves most of its dependents in a perpetual state of instability, i.e., farmers.

Growth in the number of agricultural labourers since the independence has surpassed that of cultivators by a large margin. India had around 70 million cultivators in 1947 while agriculture labourers were at around 27 million. But in 2011, agricultural labourers surpassed cultivators by around 26 million (118 million cultivators to 144 million labourers).

P. Sainath writes that some 2035 farmers lose their ‘cultivator status’ daily. They obviously join the class of landless farmers or agricultural labourers.

Every year, thousands of farmers are forced to commit suicide due to financial problems and dependent social evils. And it has been an unending black spot on India for decades. Unseasonal rains during first few months of this year forced more than a thousand farmers to take their lives in Maharashtra alone.

In spite of all its economic advances and industrial growth, India has not been able to address many glaring sociological gaps prevalent in the country.

In spite of its increasing global stature, India is yet to find a way to address its increasing social disparity, the widening gap between haves and have-nots.

India has still hollow and questionable answers to debates like ‘India Vs Bharat’, Metro India Vs Small Town India and Urban India Vs Hinterland India’.

And the ways to the way go through our political establishment, elected to run the country, since the first elections were held after the independence.

And when a minister from that political establishment, from an elected government, expresses such insensitive remarks, we feel so low – the nation, once again, is forced to feel that India would never be able to bridge its ‘class gaps’ with such policymakers.

And Radha Mohan Singh’s is not a standalone case.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

NEPAL EARTHQUAKE: MEANWHILE, INDIAN FARMERS CONTINUE TO COMMIT SUICIDE

Debt-ridden farmer commits suicide in Kalaburagi
The Hindu-April 28, 2015

Two more farmers commit suicide over crop loss
Daily Mail, April 28, 2015

Cotton farmer commits suicide in TN
Business Standard, April 27, 2015

Another farmer commits suicide in Haryana
Chandigarh Tribune, April 27, 2015

Ninth Rajasthan Farmer to Commit Suicide in 1 Week
NDTV, April 26, 2015

Unable to pay loan, farmer hangs self outside DM office
Indian Express, April 26, 2015

Under debt, farmer commits suicide
Chandigarh Tribune, April 25, 2015

These are also some of the headlines since Saturday from India – a Saturday when Nepal’s devastating earthquake enveloped a part of Himalayan range, including many districts of Nepal, 39 overall and 11 severely damaged, and many parts of India and some parts of other neighbouring countries – China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan.

It’s an unending human misery and Nepal will take long to come back to normalcy in spite of the overwhelming international aid including from India.

Farmer suicides in India are also an unending human misery and no foreign aid is coming to curb them.

Governments here, including the Union Government try to do all to the hide behind the data when it comes to farmer suicides.

Though Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh has revised the estimates to 189 lakh hectares from 94 lakh hectares, many states affected have not reported farmer suicides due to unseasonal rains and the subsequent crops loss or have reported he same in highly disproportionate ways. And even the Centre, though accepting, is not attributing almost of these distress deaths due to some agrarian crisis.

The Nepal earthquake comes to the rescue of governments we can say, especially one government – Arvind Kejriwal’s government in Delhi.

Arvind Kejriwal has found himself in a trap after a farmer allegedly committed suicide in his rally. Kejriwal had launched the rally to take over the mantle of farmers’ fight against the National Democratic Alliance government’s land acquisition ordinance. He was claiming to offer the maximum compensation to the farmers in the country who were victims of unseasonal rains.

But Gajender or Gajendra’s alleged suicide washed down his efforts. When Gajender made the move to climb the tree at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar, when he was trying to scale up and down the branches of the three, when he was waving his turban, the crowd below there, consisted mostly of the Aam Aadmi Party volunteers mainly, cheered him up.

When his alleged suicide, which was caught on many cameras, took place, Kejriwal promised he would visit the hospital after finishing the rally. He kept on speaking. The rally went on.

Meanwhile, Gajender was declared ‘brought dead’ by the doctors of Ram Manohar Lohia hospital in Delhi.

And Kejriwal and the AAP’s plans went to the awry after it.

After it, Kejriwal’s proposed visit never happened. He spoke on it, but only on third day, on April 24, defending and apologizing at the same time. His party’s spokespersons were speaking rubbish all this while. Sanjay Singh even visited Gajender’s village in Duasa district in Rajasthan.

Gajender’s village became a talking point. Every major political party, along with some senior politicians, saw it its duty to register its presence there. When Vasundhara Raje Scindia, Rajasthan’s chief minister, from the Bhartiya Janata Party, made a controversial statement about visiting Gajender’s villages, it created a political storm. She ultimately did not visit the village.

Gajender’s family too changed its stance after meeting Sanjay Singh. In words of Sanjay Singh, the family demanded ‘martyr status for the cause of farmers’ and jobs for dependent of Gajender, along with other demands.

In all, a political storm was brewing and farm suicides were at the forefront of every discourse in this country, something that seldom happens, even if tens of thousands of farmers commit suicide each year. Everyone was trying to squeeze in the maximum political mileage of this ‘Peepli Live’ sort of situation.

All this while, Gajender’s suicide and suicide note, both were under scanner. There were doubts based on the probe so far and it was told to us that Gajender did not intend to commit suicide and his suicide note was forged. Questions like who invited him from Rajasthan and his call details are part of investigation now. And the AAP was clearly on back foot.

Kejriwal was feeling uncomfortable with these questions. He was at the centre of every criticism and he had no answers but lame excuses. Also, the incident came after almost expulsion like situation of two senior-most AAP founder-members, Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan. The AAP is staring at a credibility crisis.

And then April 25 Nepal earthquake happened. The whole nation since then is talking about it. It got round the clock coverage till Monday. Even yesterday, it got the maximum amount of coverage.

And the AAP got the breather that it desperately needed.

April 25, 26, 27 and 28 – no one talked about Gajender.

But Gajender’s issue is not dead. As coverage from Nepal will return to normal, the AAP agenda will be back in political circles.

Kejriwal realizes it or not, we need to see that. Though he has softened his tone towards Delhi Police saying even Delhi Police officials present there could not think that Gajender was preparing to commit suicide, Gajender did die.

Farmers are dying daily in this country the headlines tell. Unseasonal rains have only added to the numbers. But they don’t pull attention, until someone like Gajender commits an intentional/unintentional suicide in India’s national capital in a rally called by its newest political party that is running the show in Delhi and is trying to take on the whole political class including the BJP in the centre.

Commonplace ironies of world’s largest democracy continue.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/