Thursday, 8 June 2017

Farmers' protests: Turning point for Modi

  • The ongoing farmers' protests in several states across India is the first major mass movement confronting the Narendra Modi government. Unless handled adroitly, the stir could throw up a major challenge to the BJP and Modi's political dominance.
  • Ever since he launched the high voltage prime ministerial campaign in 2013, Modi remained in perpetual promising mode. Inability to deliver is now beginning to catch up for the first time making the ruling establishment realize that being on a perpetual promissory mode is fraught with dangers.
  • RBI Governor Urjit Patel's statement that loan waivers add to the risk of fiscal slippage, shrinks dramatically Modi's negotiating space.
  • Patel's similar warning during UP election campaign was lost in the campaign noises.
  • The self-created pressure of labeling the dead farmers as martyrs, does not spare MP CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan: For what cause and in protest of whose government?
  • - Farmers are not the 'other' that can be demonized by militarist or muscular nationalism.
    - Farmers are not human-rights activists who are constantly arraigned as anti-nationals.
    - Farmers are not members of a religious minority who allegedly do not ascribe to the dominant culture of the nation.
    - Farmers are not foreign-funded NGOs who disrupt government by expressing empathy with the downtrodden and agitating people.
    - Farmers are also not gathering to seek repealing of laws which give security and armed forces the right to quash the fundamental rights of the people.
    - Farmers are instead intended to be the main beneficiaries of an egalitarian order that Modi proclaims as his credo.
    - Farmers are the custodians of our granaries and must be applauded for continuing to stick on, despite the odds stacked against them.
  • The opposition which was derided by BJP as a bunglers' club is suddenly accused of having the capacity to destabilize the nation. 
  • Attempts to prevent Rahul Gandhi from reaching the troubled spots are akin to putting a person on life-support systems. It is up to the scion or other opposition leaders to capitalize on the political opening provided by farmers.
  • Rare is the case that a mass movement can be imposed from the above; it must always emerge from below. Thereafter, it is up to the opposition parties, whether they can capitalize on it or not.
  • In the last few days Modi government has been demonstrated as being fallible like any establishment. This farmers agitation may peter out or spread like wildfire. But even if the BJP government succeeds in dousing the flames by offering sops, such a move compels BJP to negotiate this serious challenge. Compared to Modi's 'no dialogue' stance on contentious political issues, this will be a comedown and demonstrate that beneath his tough exterior, Modi too can be forced to grant an extra quarter.
  • The farmers' strife in MP is worrying for Modi and BJP because the state did not have poor monsoon last year. It was blessed with a bumper crop. MP is also not a poor state and has registered high agricultural growth over the past several years. The agitating farmers are not the poorest in the state. In the past one year, every five hours one farmer committed suicide in the state due to distress stemming from accumulated loans and the glut in the market. The government has to give serious thought why, in state after state, bumper production is proving itself to be a bane for farmers.
  • Agricultural policy focused on means to increase crop yield but not farmers' livelihood concerns. The government's fiscal health has been its principal worry, not the farmers' balance sheets. The policy of announcing loan waivers periodically is faulty. Analysis is required to examine reasons for repeated default.
  • It's a truth that farmers are unable to recover costs with their produce. Agriculture is mostly a loss-making vocation. The BJP promised to implement recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission's suggestion to ensure a minimum of 50% profits over the cost of production. This assurance by Modi was clearly aimed at wooing the farmers. Unless a comprehensive strategy to ameliorate the lot of farmers is formulated, the BJP will pay a heavy political price for its deceit.
  • Modi can lose sight at his own risk. The BJP's traditional support base is not rural India and farmers. Yet, they voted for BJP mainly on the strength of Modi's promises and his mesmerizing presence. Three years is a long period to initiate steps and provide evidence of sincerity. 
  • Farmers are clearly a disgruntled lot and accusing them of taking cues from the opposition will indicate the BJP is behaving like the proverbial ostrich. 

If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, 
it cannot save the few who are rich ... JFK

My View:
During past 25 years, it is a standard pattern for politicians to talk about poor & peasants to win elections and once in power or opposition these leaders behave like brokers/dealers for rich, businesses, contractors etc enriching themselves. Their princely & lavish lifestyles is all the more disgusting. Farmers and poor received some sops say up to 10% of govt spending and remaining knocked off in the name of development, of which less than 25% gets capitalized and more than 75% finding way into pockets of politicians, industrialist, businessmen, and bureaucrats. While educated flourished with global opportunities, businesses flourished with obliging politicians, poor & farmers were left behind and suffered poverty. For alleviating agriculture from debt relief, mechanization to reduce expenditure, land reforms for viability of fragmented land parcels, quality inputs (seeds, fertilizers & pesticides), micro irrigation & water conservation, organic farming, warehouses & cold storage, efficient markets, food processing industries and many more -  much needs to be done and so far what has been done is minuscule. A 10 year focused plan including retraining of rural labour with an investment of Rs.3 lakh crores per annum for 10 years is the need of the hour. Otherwise we will be doomed as a nation.

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