Helping the farmers in distress

I appreciate Suraj Bhan Dahiya’s views in his article “Farmers driven to suicide” (May 1). India lives in villages. Unless rural India becomes free socially and economically, there will be no true progress. The success of our democracy rests with the rural poor. And if we want the rural economy to be liberalised, we must empower our farmers.

Globalisation, consumerism, diversification and exploitation of market forces have all affected the farmers. Sir Chhotu Ram made the Punjab peasantry debt free. Today, the situation is very different. The farmers and the farm sector are under severe strain. No wonder, in the recent NSSO round, some farmers preferred to quit agriculture.

The bold peasantry of Punjab and Haryana has been tamed and is under the bondage of moneylenders. Sir Chhotu Ram had forewarned that farmers would continue to be exploited till they were accorded priority in planning and policies of the government.

Unlike industrialists, farmers can’t even declare insolvency. Therefore, they end their life. Vested interests — unscrupulous politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen, traders — are all hand-in-glove to exploit the farmers. Thus, the entire value chain — from procurement to marketing — is the exclusive domain of the farmers. And the moment they lose their right over this, they are no more than contract labourers.


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Trapped in a vicious circle of crop failure, high debt and penury, the Indian farmer’s future is an endless night. Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram seems to be more concerned about Sensex and has little to offer to the agricultural sector. While agricultural incomes are rising by only 1.5 per cent, the consumption is growing by almost 4 per cent. The investment in agriculture is also declining. From 16.4 per cent in 1979-80, the planned outlay for agriculture slumped to 6 per cent in the 1980s, and 4.9 per cent in the Ninth Plan (1997-2002).

The total short-term credit required for crops is about Rs 1 lakh crore a year. Financial institutions supply hardly 12-14 per cent of the same, thus making the farmers a prey of the sahukars. The government is simply a mute spectator to the unending suicides of the farmers.



The farmers are totally dependent on moneylenders. Even then, they prefer moneylenders to the bank and government agencies because the latter’s attitude and treatment are harsh and cruel than that of the former.

Caught in the vicious cycle of debt and unable to repay, many farmers end their life. The problem can be checked if effective measures are taken to prevent the escalation of debt-driven suicides. The government’s statements add insult to injury. Nothing could be more striking than the wide gap between the Punjab government’s claims and the relief given to the debt-ridden peasantry.



No doubt, government apathy towards agriculture is the root of the problem. On the one hand, it calls for a Second Green Revolution. And on the other, it does not provide any assistance to farmers. The input cost has almost doubled in the last 4-5 years. Diesel prices and labour charges have been soaring each month. But the MSP for paddy and wheat has not been substantially increased in the last three years. Despite best efforts, the farmer finds a negative balance sheet.

This apart, conspicuous consumption is a big problem. Even small farmers organise lavish marriages of their children. Heavy dowry including a big car is the latest trend in Punjab and Haryana. This provokes other farmers to indulge in the rat race. Moneylenders take advantage of this and offer the farmers loans with hefty interest rates. Their failure to repay the huge loan causes social embarrassment and ultimately prompt them to end their life.

The government should extend a helping hand to farmers. Otherwise, we will have to import huge quantity of food grains from outside as in the pre-Independence era.


Check felling

The Himachal Pradesh government seems to be failing in its duty to check indiscriminate felling of forest trees because of the overbearing influence of the forest mafia. The government should take strong and effective measures

to check felling. One way is to take away the TD rights of the area where this business continues and impose heavy fines on the culprits.


Khap panchayats must go

The Supreme Court, in its order on the fatwa case in Orissa, has rightly ruled that there is no place for any parallel system of justice in the country. These parallel judicial systems are not only posing a serious challenge to the constitutionally established legal system but are a bane. These self-styled pseudo-judicial courts should be liquidated so that the sanctity of our legal system is protected.

However, the Supreme Court verdict should not be confined to fatwas only; it should be extended to the khap panchayats which are posing a more serious threat to the judiciary. They must be rooted out as their verdicts are illegal and perverse. The district administration should be given more powers to crush the khap panchayats.

The sovereignty of law which is under threat from the khap panchayats must be saved from being damaged, and the dignity of the lawful institutions should be allowed to prevail.

Dr H.S. SINHA, Kurukshetra


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