Seen as the precursor to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the villages in states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have voted against the incumbent governments on the back of unfulfilled promises.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been in power in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh for 15 years. However, what changed this election is that farmers have united, not on any other front, but on their debts and demand for fair remuneration.
While the BJP focussed on farmers and agriculture, especially after facing a tough time in Gujarat's Saurashtra, where the cotton and groundnut farmers gave ruling party a miss in elections. But, on the ground implementation in other states has been a big miss.
The agrarian crisis has led to farmers protesting, but in an organised manner. Many supporting groups, organisations and institutions loyal to farmers cause have cropped up on regional and national level leading these movements. Farmers have also done silent protest marches keeping the agenda clear about doing away with their debts and ensuring higher remuneration for theie produce.
The government did focus on all the right and relevant issues like doubling farmers income by 2022, increasing the minimum support prices (MSP) to 50 percent cost of production, irrigation projects, agriculture export policy etc. But, all of this is coming too late and it’s still on paper.
Devinder Sharma, analyst, Food & Trade Policy said that since 2016, fruits and vegetables were delisted from APMC (Agricultural Produce Market Committee), but only on paper as the arrivals of these products in major markets in Maharashtra or north have shown an increase.
The e-NAM launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April 2016 is available across 585 grain markets, much lower than its target reach of farmers and commodities. The initiative lacked infrastructure, equipment and volumes. It’s a step in right direction, but still far from serving its purpose.
The cost plus 50 percent increase in MSP announced by government this year also did not generate excitement as the lower of the two costs was chosen and MSP was set on A2+FL formula. This was lower than the farmers demand and the prices for kharif have been lower than the price too.
Even as we are looking at a near record crop, the prices have been under pressure due to the surplus and lower global commodity prices. With the food inflation number at -2.61 and expected lower, the concerns will continue.
The higher input costs for fertilisers, seeds, labour and irrigation led to further distress as did the drought and deficient and erratic monsoon in many states.
Bharat Krishak Samaj’s Ajay Vir Jakhar said that BJP made a mistake of taking farmers for granted. Now, the farmers feel deceived and they have reacted to the unkept promises.
A few farmers from Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh told CNBC-TV18 that they don’t buy PM’s argument anymore and there is a serious discontent and economic disparity. Freebies is not what the villages are looking at, but they want structural changes and immediate steps to support the agriculture sector.
If the newly-elected government does not deliver the promises of farm loan waivers in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh within 10 days after the swearing in, they will hear backlash from farmers.
At a time when rich states find it difficult to give out subsidies, these newly elected governments in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh will be in a tough situation to fulfill the promises as coffers are near empty.So, it would be better these states make investments, restructure the loans, procure commodity, instead of taking the same route which most states seem to be taking.