Relief to farmers is not a burden, as long as it conforms to fiscal prudence and equilibrium
Farmers are out on the streets in Madhya Pradesh and Maharastra seeking better support prices and loan waivers on the lines of a decision announced by Uttar Pradesh government led by Yogi Adityanath. UP’s decision was bound to have a multiplier effect. And so it has become a millstone around other state BJP governments.
While a national consensus on the farmers’ issues will have to be evolved, police firing leading to death of hapless farmers, mismanagement of ground situation and politicisation of farmers’ protests must end forthwith. BJP and Congress cannot use the ongoing farmers agitation to settle their political scores. Playing politics by taking advantage of farmers’ suicides is unacceptable. Let’s not forget, even for a moment, that inability of farmers to repay their debt and insulate themselves from vicious debt cycle, moneylenders, their henchmen and insensitive political slug fest has led to all round deterioration of the situation in several states.
Reports have suggested unfortunate spread of violence from Mandsaur to Neemuch, Dewas, Sehore and Ujjain. More areas in an otherwise peaceful state like Madhya Pradesh are likely to be involved in this cheap political bickering that happens on corpses of farmers. Farmers in Maharastra are already on the warpath. Here again, BJP’s partner in state government Shiv Sena and Congress leaders have jumped in vehemently to cash-in on the farmers’ plight. Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis decision to take a call on loan waivers by October has won him only a temporary reprieve with the situation not spiralling out of control and beyond in Beed as of now. The two state governments led by BJP must not take lightly the possibility of farmers protest spreading from Madhya Pradesh to Pratapgarh in Rajasthan as well.
Prime minister Narendra Modi’s deliberations on Wednesday with a top cabinet ministerial team to douse the fire following the death of farmers must not end there. Concerted efforts will have to be made for a uniform policy on farmers’ livelihood issues while politically tackling the opposition parties’ escapades to fish in the troubled waters. Modi government should also realise quickly that opposition parties are bound to make merry out of the trouble. It would be rather foolish if one were to expect the opposition parties to bail out the state government at a time when Madhya Pradesh is heading for legislative assembly elections in about a year and a half.
Priority for both Centre and states should be to bring in a semblance of normalcy in law and order as several parts of Madhya Pradesh have already started reeling under impact of farmers’ protests. Vulnerability of state apparatus was exposed given the incidents of extensive bandhs, loot and pelting of stones resorted to by angry people.
Several free market economists, including our RBI governor Urjit Patel, have taken a firm line against loan waivers for farmers citing larger fiscal implications. It was BJP that opened the Pandora’s box in Uttar Pradesh with a Rs 34,000 crore write off as part of fulfilling the pre-poll manifesto promise in the state.
Succour and relief to farmers should not be viewed as burden given that the food economy contributes to over 16.4 per cent of the GDP and over 40 per cent low cost employment is found on the fields. Unless farming becomes a viable and profitable enterprise, the 5.2 per cent growth seen in last quarter may not be sustainable thereby causing a larger impact to the country’s economic growth cycle.
If banks can consider taking a haircut owing to failed businesses, should these institutions not consider crop failures, fall in commodity prices, natural calamities and non-availability of market linkages as a business risk taken by farmer to deliver on food front? Equating one with the other is a populist phenomenon. As we now know, it was the UPA1 farm loan waiver which triggered the NPA mess thatthe BJP government finds itself with.
Unless market reforms, skill development, induction of technology and export policies are tailor-made, farmers will continue to face this misery, suffering and a repeat of incidents that occurred in Madhya Pradesh and Maharastra are inevitable.