Mangaluru: Recently, a farmer committed suicide at a farmer’s rally held by Arvind Kejriwal, the Chief Minister of Delhi. Kejriwal faced severe criticism for continuing with his speech as though nothing had happened. Economically distressed farmers have been committing suicides for a long time in India. It is not surprising that Kejriwal was not to perturbed by the death of a farmer. For some reason, the press gives space to farmer suicides. These events get talked about a lot in the parliament and the media, and yet nothing changes. Why nothing changes is because there is no clear understanding about why the farmer is so economically challenged.
Farming as an occupation is losing favor fast. Young people with a little education prefer driving or being a clerk at a small shop to farming. Farming is considered a difficult occupation with low returns. Not so long ago, farmers had few wants. Most villages did not have electricity. So there was no television to create needs. The big expenses came when someone got married or sick. And that was when a small farmer would sell a little land or get into debt. The topic of exploitation of the Indian farmers by money lenders has been ruminated by many leading authors like Munshi Premchand and Changampuzha Krishna Pillai. Movies like Mother India and Do Beegah Zameen made people weep for the suffering farming community. The farmers remain poor inspite of all the attention they received by the arts, the media, and the politicians.
The money lending Zamindars are mostly gone today and yet the farmers are entrenched in debt. This is because the Indian farmer thinks handouts and loans are his only options. He thinks he is destined to be poor. If you belong to a Banana republic, that is, a country whose entire economy depends on exporting bananas, then this attitude would be right. But India is free to grow what she wants. No one dictates to her. The Indian farmer must grow timber, sandalwood, and other cash crops, so that he can become wealthy. Very little effort has been made by the Indian governments so far to educate the Indian farmers on how they can maximize their income. Help typically comes as some kind of monetary handouts. The Indian Government must pay heed to the Chinese proverb “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. Moreover, it is illegal to grow some trees like sandalwood trees without a license. Sandalwood is profitable enough to kill. But the farmers have not yet cashed in on such profits. The licenses and corruption in the rural sector keeps the farmer growing low income crops which keeps him in perennial poverty.
Now, even if the farmer comes with a scheme that makes money, there is no guarantee he will continue reaping benefits for long. The rubber farmers of South India were making a neat profit in the last decade. But the Indian government decided to import cheap rubber, thereby, bringing down the rubber prices. The farmers who borrowed on the basis of future profits are now left distressed. There needs to be price protection for farmers. Some crops like Cashewnuts have price protection. But Indian cashewnuts are disappearing at an alarming rate from the earth. Better access to automation would have helped this labor intensive product.
Clearly, better education and planning will help the Indian farmer. Instead of viewing farming as an occupation of losers, let us give it the stature it deserves. Farmers help us put food on our tables. Let us make sure that they will never have to choose a noose around their neck due to economic distress.
Maya Mohsin Ahmed – archives:
- The Pathetic Academic Culture of Mangaluru
- The Many Pitfalls of Holding on to Money
- Why on Earth did we agree that Religious Conversions are Wrong?
- In the Land of Coconut Trees
- Mangaluru: The murky land deals of Karnataka
- The Sad Economic Disparity of Genders
- Mangaluru: Misuse of Scheduled Castes and Tribes (prevention of atrocities) Act
- Stop Domestic Violence