Farmers driven up the wall, record suicides under BJP rule, allege kisan leaders

By Quaid Najmi

Mumbai, May 28 (IANS): As far as the farming community is concerned, the farmers' leaders lament that the past 8-9 years of the Bharatiya Janata Party rule have been "the most disastrous ever since Independence" for the country's peasantry, shaking the backbone of the Indian economy.

All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) president and CPI(M) politburo member Ashok Dhawale, Shiv Sena-UBT's Kishore Tiwari, Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS) leader Raju Shetti and others point accusing fingers at Prime Minister Narendra Modi's policies of nine years that have "pushed the farmers to the wall and to commit suicide".

"All the assurances by Modi, even before he became PM, have gone to the winds… In the run-up to the 2014 elections, Modi loudly proclaimed in 440 public rallies that his government will implement the 'M.S. Swaminathan Report' promising 150 percent returns to the farmers. After 9 years, what happened to that big promise," asked Dhawale.

Tiwari said that never before in the past 75 years has the country's agricultural community suffered as much as it does under the current dispensation at the Centre.

"It's an endless struggle for survival for the farmers, and ironically, the food-givers to the nation... The production and input costs have gone up, inflation is hitting new heights, they are beset with low remunerative prices for all crops, no credit, insurance or security available at any level, and only big claims by the BJP, thus compelling the besieged farmers to end their lives," said Tiwari.

Shetti targeted the government's torch-bearer, the Prime Minister Crop Insurance Scheme (PMCIS), terming it as the "greatest hoax" in Indian agriculture history.

"Recently, the government claimed it had arranged to settle insurance claims of some Rs 150,000 crore. However, the Centre-State governments had paid 49 percent premium each plus the 2 percent share of the farmers. Hence, of the more than Rs 700,000 crore collected by the insurance companies, only a meagre amount (Rs 150,000-crore) had reportedly been cleared. What about the rest, and where has all that public money gone?" Shetti asked.

Dwelling on another major issue, Shetti and Dhawale said that the Land Acquisition Act was another potential disaster that threatened the farmers in the country with the pro-corporate amendments that the BJP sought to include in it.

"After a sustained nationwide struggle by the farmers through the Bhoomi Adhikar Andolan, the government was compelled to withdraw it in 2015," they said.

"Nevertheless, the Centre gave the states the right to carry out their own amendments which most BJP-ruled states have done. Now, the farmers' lands are being looted in those states," rued Shetti.

Referring to how the farmers have been driven to fight for their rights repeatedly under the Modi regime, Tiwari and Dhawale speak of the 3 contentious farm laws that the government was compelled to roll back after the historic 13-month long all-India farmers' agitation that caught global attention in 2020-2021.

"Lakhs of farmers under the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, in which the AIKS was a prominent component, fought against the three laws which were tailor-made for the corporate houses and spelt the ruin of the farming communities… The agitation was a success and finally the government withdrew the three laws," said Dhawale.

Tiwari said the farmers have had to leave their fields and take to the streets for prolonged periods repeatedly to safeguard their interests and fight for their rights, whether the farmers' campaigns against the land act, the 3 farm laws or even the 'long marches' carried out in Maharashtra.

"The farming community is utterly disenchanted with Modi... Go around the country and show one genuine farmer who is satisfied with the BJP policies, there is seething anger over the betrayal of their trust in Modi's tall assurances in 2014 and 2019," said Tiwari.

Shetti, Tiwari and Dhawale are also deeply concerned about the spate of farmland suicides that continue to blot the fields nationwide, especially Maharashtra.

"From 1995 till 2014, the country notched around 300,000 farmers suicides, but after the Modi government came to power, there have been more than 100,000 suicides in barely eight years, as per the NCRB data," pointed out Dhawale.

Endorsing this, Tiwari said that farmers' suicides have shown an upswing under the BJP rule, while Shetti said that if such 'jumlas' continue, the situation will become grimmer in the coming years for the tillers' very survival.

Dhawale, Tiwari and Shetti also slammed the manner in which the budgetary outlay for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) has been continuously slashed by the Modi government, including 30 percent in the last Union Budget.

The trio are of the opinion that MNREGA is "the lifeline of the marginal farmers and agricultural workers, but now they are doomed" and this will have serious repercussions on the agrarian economy, but the government remains in a slumber...



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Title: Farmers driven up the wall, record suicides under BJP rule, allege kisan leaders

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