Nagpur: The overwhelming response to the farmers’ ‘long march’ has once again brought to the fore the agrarian crisis currently on in the country, Kishor Tiwari, farm activist and chairman of the Vasantrao Naik Sheti Swavalamban Mission said today.
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he urged the government to have a relook at its agrarian programmes in order to mitigate the distress of farmers.
Drawing attention to what he called disturbing facts, Tiwari stated that despite schemes like loan waiver, farm credit, irrigation and electricity supply to pump sets, an “unaccountable and hostile” bureaucracy was failing to provide relief to farmers.
He said that stringent norms introduced by the bureaucracy were keeping eligible farmers out of the relief network.
Faulty policies of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) and other financial institutions had also failed to keep to the deadline laid down by the government for these schemes, he said.
He said in the letter that these factors were creating an atmosphere of no-confidence among farmers.
He said that despite the government’s announcement of relief to five million cotton cultivators whose crops had been damaged by pink bollworms, it was being denied by agencies like the NDRF as well as seed and crop insurance firms.
“This year the state has implemented a mega agricultural debt waiver and debt relief scheme for the benefit of around 6 million farmers but as the state has no direct control over the functioning of PSU banks, it failed to give timely and sufficient credit to debt-ridden farmers,” said Tiwari.
He stated that all major crops, like cotton, soybeans, pulses and paddy were being sold at prices lower than the stipulated Minimum Support Price due to stringent norms laid down by the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED)and the Cotton Corporation of India.
He said the government’s intervention in this matter was “poor”.
Tiwari asked the government to give attention to the holistic national policy for farmers recommended in the Swaminathan Commission report.
The report had listed the unfinished agenda of land reforms, quantity and quality of water, technology fatigue, institutional credit and marketing as major causes for the agrarian crisis.
The report has also suggested shifting agriculture into the Concurrent List as policy and developmental decisions on it were taken by both the Centre and the states.
Tiwari said, in the letter, that Maharashtra had started working aggressively on core issues raised in the report related to land, water, bio-resources, credit and insurance, technology, knowledge management and markets.
He pointed out that the ground reality was that these programmes had not reached the small and needy farmers.
“Farming is largely an unorganised sector. No systematic institutional and organisational planning is involved in cultivation, irrigation, harvesting etc.
Institutional finance is not adequately available and minimum purchase price fixed by the government does not reach the poorest farmer,” he said.
“Exploitation by traders and middlemen denies the farmer the best price for his produce. There is a need to promote farmers market where they can directly sell their produce at reasonable prices to the consumers,” Tiwari said.