The agitation of Tamil Nadu farmers in New Delhi was the final resort to draw national attention and that of the Centre.
The farmers took to the different style of protest to express their anguish when negligence of the political class became unbearable. Some protested by carrying skulls of dead farmers who committed suicide due to crop failure and mounting debts. A man was seen protesting with the skull of his wife who had died due to a heart attack after receiving a bank notice which claimed to take away the property. About 150 farmers agitating in the national capital also had similar tales of misery to share. They held dead rats in their mouths. The protestors at Jantar Mantar were wearing only their loin cloths despite the scorching Delhi sun. All these instances alone are sufficient to make one realize the depth of their helplessness. The latest crisis have aggravated the already existing predicament.
The farmers have already been plagued with loss of crops and debts. They are now burdened with severe drought that have affected the agricultural sector immensely. Over 270 farmers have committed suicide in Tamil Nadu after the month of October alone. The state have been witnessing the worst drought of the century. Such tragedies happen not only in Tamil Nadu. In Karnataka last month, a farmer climbed on to a transformer, held on to the electric line and got himself electrocuted. He committed suicide because he was unable to pay off his debts after the failure of his crops for two consecutive years. In Punjab, popularly known as the ‘grain bowl’ of India, three farmers committed suicide in two days. The agricultural crisis is grave not only in Maharashtra and Telegana but also in Kerala.
The government cannot keep away citing drought as the main reason. Firstly, the policies or welfare schemes for the farmers remain merely as campaign promises. Secondly, the negligence of the government, that is reluctant to waive off the loans of the farmers even when their lives comes to a standstill, is apparent and in no way justifiable. Farmer suicides increased during the term of the Modi government who came to power pledging commitment to agriculturalists. According to the report by the National Crime Records Bureau, 12, 600 farmers committed suicide in 2015 alone.
Although the Centre has adopted measures like agricultural insurance, the farmers complain of the laxity in the processes. The Supreme Court lately raised the grave question as to why the Centre and the state machineries as well as the banks fail to stop farmer suicides. Chief Justice Khehar had pointed towards the drawbacks of the agricultural policy. It’s also noticeable that the government which continue to be indolent towards the poor farmers, process swiftly in the case of the rich and affluent. A farmer in Karnataka and another in Punjab ended their lives due to a debt of three lakh and two lakh respectively. Crime bureau have reiterated that about 60 per cent of the farmer suicides occur due to such petty loans, which the government could forgive if needed. These farmers on the other hand are small scale agriculturalists and farmers. The government usually poses several counter arguments policy wise and economy wise in waiving off their debts.
Those at the top at the Reserve Bank frequently say that writing off the loans of the farmers would lead to a wrong precedence and corrupt practices. However, according to Arvind Subramanian, the Chief Economic Advisor, waiving off the trivial loans of the large corporates was good economy. The order of precedence isn’t an issue there. The corporates apparently seems to have no other option for survival. But when the poor farmers are left with no choice for survival, they receive bank notices instead of a sigh of relief. They in turn seek refuge by resorting to suicide.
In Madhya Pradesh recently, the food crops and tractors of 32 farmers were seized and auctioned because they failed to repay the small loan amounts. It was at the same time that the Parliament Council found that about 70 per cent of the national debt of 6.8 lakh crore was due to loans given by the banks to the giant corporates. About 4 lakh crore is likely to be written off from the debt amount of big companies. There is no such favourable moves for the farmers. That is, they commit suicide not only due to the failure of crops but also due to the failure of the policies. Holding dead rats in their mouths and protesting with human skulls, the hapless farmers ask for help they deserve. They shouldn’t be forced into committing suicide again.