Thursday, 6 July 2017

Rural revolt destroys Modi's 3rd year celebration plans

  • Humongous plans for the third anniversary celebrations of the Narendra Modi led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government were announced in mid May. The 22 days celebrations were to be conducted from May 25 to June 15 by the BJP.
  • These celebrations of the BJP-led NDA government will be centred around PM Modi, with a ‘Making of Developed India (MODI)’ festival as the highlight, as 450 leaders, including Union ministers, BJP chief ministers, MPs, MLAs and office-bearers spread across 900 cities and towns starting May 26 to educate the masses about its achievements since 2014. A control room is being set up in Delhi to monitor the programmes and visits of the BJP leaders between May 26 and June 15.
  • The plans visualised Modi writing two crore letters and sending 10 crore SMS messages to common people, front-page advertisements in 400 newspapers across the country displaying Modi’s visuage and listing his government’s achievements, 30- and 60-second advertisements on television and radio on all the 22 days of the celebration period, and 300 multimedia exhibitions in various States.
  • Booklets titled “Then and Now (UPA and NDA)”, to highlight how the country had marched ahead under Modi. The agriculture sector is given special focus in the booklets. 
  • The government’s promotional programmes did not make any reference to its pre-election promises on the agricultural front and its failure to fulfill them. Instead it talked about the government’s ambitious rural development initiatives aimed at doubling farmers’ incomes in real terms by 2022 and uniting the fragmented markets to achieve the goal of “one nation, one market”.
  • This self-aggrandizement project ran to the satisfaction of the various organizers for about a week, that is, until June 1, 2017, the day farmers’ organisations in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra started separate agitations demanding farm loan waiver and a hike in minimum support prices (MSP) in tune with the promise made by the BJP governments both at Centre and in the two States. 
  • The BJP had promised during the 2014 Lok Sabha election campaign that it would implement the recommendations of M.S. Swaminathan commission 2006 that suggested that the MSP should be above 50% profit margin on input cost.
  • Barely a week after the commencement of the farmers’ agitations, the grandiose third anniversary celebration plans were in a shambles, thoroughly exposing the hollowness of the government’s claims, especially about enhancing the rural economy and boosting farmers’ interests. The eventful one week witnessed intensification of the agitations in the two big States, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, with farmers dumping milk and vegetables on roads and damaging vehicles, resisting attempts by the police and the security forces to quell them. The escalated violence resulted in the killing of six farmers in police firing in Madhya Pradesh.
  • The responses from the BJP, including CM's Fadnavis and Chouhan  were to brand the agitations as politically motivated vandalism sponsored by the opposition Congress and NCP. They insisted that the farm sector was successful under the Modi regime and that the farmers’ agitations were entirely unwarranted. So much so that both the leaders either refused to initiate talks with farmers’ representatives for discussions. But none of these tactics succeeded. The developments since June 1, 2017 and the nationwide response, put them on the back foot. While Fadnavis announced a loan waiver for farmers with less than two hectares of land, Chouhan, after launching a dramatic indefinite fast to bring peace and calm down the agitating farmers, announced that purchasing farm produce at rates lower than the MSP would be treated as a crime.
  • MP CM SS Chouhan should have been asked to step down for his failure to assess brewing discontentment among farmers and mismanaging the whole situation. The fact that compensation was increased from Rs.5 lakhs for each dead person increased to Rs.10 lakhs and then to Rs.1 crore indicates panicky management.
  • There is no guarantee that the resentment in the two States and in the farm sector in the rest of the country will subside. Already, farmers in Haryana have launched an agitation demanding loan waiver. In Maharashtra leader of the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (a BJP ally), has issued a warning that “If the promises are not kept, the agitation will resume with greater vigour.”
  • In Madhya Pradesh there are signs of farmer organisations regrouping to launch a more concerted movement.
  • The promises made by Fadnavis and Chouhan and the Union government had not adequately addressed the underlying factors that had forced farmers to take the path of agitation. These leaders have been dictated by political brinkmanship throughout, and this does not help in finding lasting solutions to farmers’ grievances. The current announcements fall in the same bracket.
  • The demand for loan waiver came up in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra because Modi himself spearheaded this brinkmanship during the campaign for the UP Assembly elections promising loan waiver for farmers. Such was the rhetoric that Modi said the loan waiver would be the first decision of the new Cabinet. He also said the Union government would contribute towards the expenditure incurred by the loan waiver. The BJP was elected to power in the State and the new government, under Yogi Adityanath, was forced to live up to this rhetoric and announce loan waiver. It is this that triggered the current phase of farmers’ agitations in other States.
  • In both the States, the agitation gathered strength not in areas where there was crop failure but in places where crops were abundant but farmers were denied remunerative prices.
  • Madhya Pradesh farmers were aggrieved that the State government was propagating falsehoods about the farming sector. The Chouhan government had been claiming a 20 per cent growth in agriculture in the past five years. The government received the Krishi Karman award (excellence in agriculture) five years in a row for this.
  • The BJP leadership have tried to underplay the role of the demonetization drive in creating agrarian distress while RBI stated how the demonetization drive and cash shortages have caused panic in the farm sector and suggested policy interventions may be envisaged to arrest the slump in prices.
  • BJP's determined refusal or inability to address comprehensively issues pertaining to the farm sector and measures such as loan waiver might bring temporary relief to farmers, larger policy initiatives were required to bring lasting stability to the farm sector.
  • The most important thrust of these initiatives and incentives should be to rescue the farming sector from the predations of the middlemen, money lenders, traders of spurious inputs, corporate sector and their interests. This predation has been marching on and on over the past two and a half decades. Governments after governments and political parties after political parties have asserted they understand the dynamics and perils of this predation, but at the level of policy and governance they have all played the facilitator role to the deprivations of these forces. 
  • The question is whether any government will show the political will to take on this problem and thus protect the farmer and through that the country itself. As things stand now, there is not much hope for this fundamental course correction.

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

My View:
While Modi talks about corruption, black money etc, these lavish celebrations would have costed over Rs.10,000 crores and the bills picked up by central & state PSUs, BJP and its crony businessmen, eventually burdening the common man. This sort of corruption is worse than receiving bribes as quid pro quo. Needless to say every BJP party activist associated with these celebrations will make few lakhs to few millions of rupees, across the nation. It is clear that BJP doesn't have any agenda for alleviating the problems of farmers and rural masses except some quick fix solution and publicizing them as achievements. Gandhi once said "India lives in its 600,000 villages, not just Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta & Madras." While Modi quotes Gandhi & Patel as convenient to him, he is really never bothered about villages and its economics dynamics. Among Indians 60% belongs to lower class & poorer sections, 30% middle class, and 10% upper & rich class. It is clear that Modi is concerned about middle & upper classes only except shedding some crocodile tears once in a while. Modi has wasted 3 years in celebrations, foreign jaunts and hollow publicity. Emulating Congress model of governance (excepting some name & color changes) Modi is sure to pay a bitter price in 2019 elections, similar to that of Vajpayee & Advani in 2004.

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