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/

MAY DAY OR NO MAYDAY: RAHUL IS MAKING NEWS FOR GOOD REASONS THESE DAYS

“Today we pay tribute to the millions of workers whose hard work, sweat and tears have gone into building our nation. No country can aspire to greatness without ensuring that the people who build the nation are partners in its prosperity and success. That those who work in our factories, in our fields, at our construction sites, in our mines and in enterprises big and small across our country are assured dignity of labour and a decent quality of life. That their children too have opportunities to choose the life they want to live, and a chance to excel and prosper. Let us renew our resolve today to strive for an India in which every citizen rich or poor, farmer and labourer, irrespective of the circumstance of their birth can hold their head high and live and work with dignity and honour.”

Rahul Gandhi said this today, on May Day, on Labour’s Day, or on International Workers’ Day. And while saying so, he extended the revival plank of his party, the Indian National Congress, of being pro-poor and fighting for the cause of the farmer.

He is on an India tour these days, protesting the land bill ordinance. In his meetings and outreach programmes, he alleges the Narendra Modi’s government of being anti-poor and anti-farmer. He is alleging that the Narendra Modi’s government is pro-corporate interests and is working to usurp the rights and land of farmers and the poor of this country. He is saying that the ordinance route was taken as the government was not sure of its chances in the Parliament.

Yesterday, he was in Vidarbha, the place of Kalavati and Shashikala and countless others; the place where Rahul ate at Kalavati’s house in May 2008 (in Yavatmal’s Jalka village) and mentioned her later in his famous speech in the Indian Parliament during the trust-vote Manmohan Singh’s government.

He trekked 15 Kms of it. He is there to reach out to farmers and poor. Unseasonal rains have destroyed crops in around 2 lakh hectares, as the government data show. The real figure is expected to be higher, like the farmer suicides, over 1000 this year, in affected regions across 14 states. Some states like Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh have seen many farm suicides in these months.

And the National Democratic Alliance’s government has already re-promulgated a land ordinance that is vociferously opposed by the political opposition as well as some allied within the government.

A changed Rahul sees an opportunity here – of Congress’ revival – and of taking on Bhartiya Janata Party.

Yes, a changed Rahul Gandhi.

Post his latest sabbatical, Rahul looks politically active and more aggressive. And the BJP is taking it seriously, hitting back. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s response in the Indian Parliament yesterday can be seen this way. Firstpost quoted him saying – “Yeh sujh-bujh ki sarkar hai, isme koi galat fahmi nahi rahe (this is a government of solutions, there should be no misconception about this). Booted hona better hai. Booted out hona khatarnak hai (It is better to be booted. Getting booted out is very dangerous). Yesterday there was criticism (by Rahul) against the Prime Minister that he spends time abroad. At least we know where he is. Is India taller in the community of nations today than it was a few years ago or not? I was surprised when I read over the last few days that compared to the developed world, whether it was Iraq or it was Yemen or Nepal today, it is India which is now being considered as a global leader even in areas where we could not manage our own affairs earlier – disaster management. The Congress Party would realize when the Prime Minister of India goes abroad even for two days or three days, he performs a national duty. There is a difference between performing a national duty and disappearing for a jaunt. Therefore, you must realize the difference between the two. What is the kind of commitment to politics that you suddenly disappear for months together and then you come back and say that I will pick up an issue every day merely because it will make my presence felt.”

So, Rahul Gandhi, after his leave of absence, is more certain of his future than ever it seems. Probably, he has introspected and meditated about it.

Hope, the changed streak is there to stay – and words of his May Day speech, that are clearly backed by a pro-poor approach, should be backed by an intent that is natural.

And yes, he has to find the solution to the ‘Robert Vadra riddle’ and convince the countrymen about it. It should happen soon. There is indeed a mayday like situation there.

©/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/

FARMER SUICIDES AND POLITICAL APATHY

Agriculture employs some 55% (54.6% exactly) of the people of India but over the years, its share in the national GDP has reduced. As of now, it contributes just 14% to the GDP.

So, even if the GDP has expanded and India is slated to become the third largest economy of the world soon, the share of expansion gone to agriculture has been less than what went to services and manufacturing.

Services, manufacturing and other trade related activities getting prominence over the agriculture – that was bound to happen in an economy advancing to enlarge itself.

And so, it was expected from the policymakers that they would do something about it.

But they didn’t have any answer to this expectation. And over the years, the sensitivity with which they looked at the problem gave way to apathy.

Results – tens of thousands of cases of farmer suicides each year – in official records (say National Crime Records Bureau) – irrespective of which political group was at the helms of affair!

Think of the unofficial estimates! Sure to outdo the official figures.

And the trend has continued over the years.

With increasing insensitivity of the political establishments and total apathy of the governments!

So much so, that debate now has elements like ‘why to become a farmer when it is economically suicidal’ to ‘small Vs big farmers’.

75% farmers have land-holdings up to 1 hectare only. 10% farmers have holdings of 1-2 hectare while just 0.24% farmers have land-holdings above 10 hectare. And these are official figures, drawn from a report of the National Sample Survey Organization.

So, the smallest land-owners form the largest chunk and they have to be ready to bear all the anomalies and brutalities – man-made and natural.

Even in normal course, their expenditures outdo the earnings. So, think of the times when nature plays the villain and when the man acts apathetic.

We cannot do anything with the nature even if this is partly political – at least, not in the short term.

But when we have to say the same thing about the ‘men acting apathetic/insensitive’, it is outrightly humiliating – because that is totally political.

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

FARMERS. KILLED BY NATURE. KILLED BY MEN.

They are forced to kill themselves after they find they find they cannot take it anymore.

And it has been happening for long, giving rise to studies, claims, counterclaims, lines of thoughts and the rampant politicking (obviously, with the inherent political apathy).

And the triggers are many.

No monsoon, erratic rains, ill-timed rains, low yield, high output (and low prices), state policies, social evils, and the cost of existing in the society!

They are killed by the nature.

They are killed by the man.

Like the spate of farm suicides now, adding to the toll of the year gone by!

In an economy, that has been famously agrarian, with agriculture witnessing a consistent downward slip in its contribution to the Indian GDP!

From some 60%, agriculture’s share in Indian economy has come down to some 15%, but not the haunting ghosts of farm suicide.

The discourse over farm suicides has got deeper, with sensitivities on the flow, trying to counter and sensitize the apathy.

Farmers continued to commit suicide in this economy that is projected to surpass the economies of Japan and Germany taken together.

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

DIWALI, MODI, GADKARI’S HELMET, MAHARASHTRA, BLACK MONEY AND MANY MORE. BUT THE FARM SUICIDE?

Diwali celebrations were in the air and are still continuing in many parts of the country. It made for news headlines and many shows. Understandable.

Narendra Modi was in Jammu & Kashmir on the Diwali day to spend time with the flood victims. He was there to show solidarity with the Indian soldiers in Siachen and the flood victims in J&K. He held high level meetings and announced fund from the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund. It contributed to the second largest chunk of editorial planning on the Diwali day. Understandable.

The Maharashtra political scene was not clear on two fronts after BJP emerged as the largest party in the state but 23 short of majority mark of 245 in the Maharashtra assembly. One, who would be the Maharashtra chief minister from BJP. Two, what price BJP would extract from Shiv Sena to oblige the Thackeray party as the ‘junior partner’ in the alliance. The newsmaking treadmill has continued unabated since then. Understandable.

Black money issue has been an evergreen fodder and was making for news headlines midst the reports that the government was about to disclose names in the court. Though a damp squib so far based on today’s developments, the issue has infinitely immense potential to oil the newsmaking machinery. Understandable.

A Shahrukh Khan starrer was to be released and it did roaring business in the opening weekend and made for loads of entertainment based content in media programming. Understandable.

Nitin Gadkari’s helmetless riding was caught on camera and transport minister of India along with his scooter became the talking point on social media and in mainstream media. Made for good visual story with scope for ‘sorts’ of debates on ‘moral and ethical’ issues over it. Understandable.

Communal clashes broke up in a part of Delhi and it threatened peace and harmony if not contained. A balanced newsmaking approach to it was required. Understandable.

All these and many other developments were adding to the foliage that makes for the fodder of the mainstream news media content. And the supply has been copious. And the supply to product conversion ratio has been in abundance making their outreach clearly visible.

On the Diwali day, news-reports came that said six farmers in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra had committed suicide within 24 hours. Erratic monsoon and the resultant agrarian loss forced them to take the extreme step. And mind you, these must not be seen as mere numbers. The region, like many other parts of India, has been facing agrarian crisis and farm suicides. According to the reports, the Vidarbha region has seen over 11000 farm suicides since 2001 and the figure this year so has reached to over 900. Yet, it did not make for the news headlines the way above-mentioned issues/developments were picked up.

And this has been like this. The question mark that it puts has been there for quite long. This time also, the trend continued.

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