“The Prime Minister wants a ‘New India’. Employment needs in that new India could only be fulfilled through revival and development of agriculture. Corporate industries would create jobless growth. Need of the hour is to keep the interest of farmers on priority.” Swaminathan, whose 2006 report on agriculture has been used in election manifestos of BJP, has demanded the government to approve his recommendation on MSP at the earliest. The 91-year-old agrarian scientist says the mass migration to cities could only be stopped if government ensures revival of farming sector.
In 1994, two decades from today, two things happened simultaneously. The Rajiv Gandhi led Congress Government invited FDI into the country and the Babri Masjid fell to the frenzy of a communal mob. Since then, things have slowly and steadily spiraled out of control for this nation. Today, we stare at an uncertain future as our economy comes crashing down to an abysmal statistics, and our communal harmony is shredded threadbare with deliberate distinction. The lynch mobs within the government, bureaucracy and outside it, have unleashed a terror so macabre and yet so naked in its design, that common man is left refuting in disbelief.
News of Hindu lynch mobs attacking and killing cattle traders and poor Muslims have become order of the day. Anyone who is proxy to the internet and pays attention to the news, would be appalled at the goriness with which each killing is executed. The victims are almost always poor Muslim men and women, though a few cases of Dalit Hindus being attacked has also captured headlines. The idea is simple- to scare the minority into submission. But, in a nation like India, where Hindus make up for 85% of the population and Muslims are just 14%, why does the lynch mob thinks it’s important to murder them in cold blood? What is the design behind this sudden upsurge in violence on poor, unarmed, innocent Muslims?
To someone who has been following the developments in this nation closely, the elections of 2014 are an important milestone. Modi and his band of loudmouthed, communal, frenzied ministers had claimed in rallies after rallies, that they had the answers to India’s problems of unemployment, slow GDP growth, poverty, and crop failures leading to farmer suicides. Modi had promised to take care of the black marketers and corrupt bureaucracy while peddling lies after lies about development in Gujarat. The theatre was carefully designed to put Modi’s communal past in the backdrop while presenting him as an iconoclast economic reformer. Indeed, the nation’s imagination got hypnotized enough to transcend into votes putting the NDA inside the PMO with relative ease.
However, within two years, the theatre began to fall apart. The jobs were never created, farmer suicides began to rise at an alarming rate after two consecutive bad monsoons and the GDP plummeted to a horrifying depth. The ministers of each state, who are used to mouthing slogans and jingoistic dialogues, found it increasingly difficult to answer the difficult pointed questions that began raising their heads, both locally and internationally. Several newspapers that had earlier showered praises at this “OBC Chaiwala” for being the ultimate savior of Hindustan now began running op-ed questioning his motives. It was then, towards the end of his second year at the PMO, that Modi played his most harrowing card with the announcement of demonetization.
The unorganized small manufacturers suffered a huge dent in both output and employment. Vrijesh Upadhyay, secretary general of the RSS affiliated Bharatiya Majdoor Sangh, told The Wire, “Even if you take 5 to 10 employees per unit which had shut down during that quarter in which 2.5 lakh units went out of production, there would have been a huge employment loss.”
Employment numbers in the unorganized sector is difficult to estimate but economists are unanimous there is a correlation between the trend in the organized and unorganized sectors. They can’t be moving in opposite directions. The government has often claimed that the unorganized sector jobs have in general grown much faster than the organized sector jobs. There is no real data to prove this. Besides, if organized sector employment growth has slowed by over 70% in four years, it is most unlikely that the unorganized sector jobs, which constitute over 85% of the total labour market, would have shown robust growth. Clearly this has proved to be the Modi government’s single biggest failure.
What is even more worrying in the coming two to three years is a disastrous prognosis for the hitherto high employment generating sectors like IT and BPO. These two sectors alone employ about 4 million people today and the industry’s own estimate is upto 60% of this workforce will not be of any use with their present skill levels. Says Nasscom President R. Chandrashekhar, “A large part of the workforce will have to undergo retraining. Even after that there is no certainty of their absorption. Automation is impacting existing employment not only in IT and BPO but in a host of other manufacturing sectors like automobiles, engineering etc. We are conducting a joint study with FICCI on this.”
Now, this begs the question.. In whose interest is Narendra Modi led NDA-2 working? Clearly, it is not the Hindu majority that forms the biggest chunk of unorganized laborers that have been recently laid off, or the Upper Caste Hindus, who form the biggest chunk of the IT professionals who have been recently laid off, or stand to lose their jobs in the coming months. Not the Hindu women, whose fundamental rights of education, free movement, procreate or their sexual freedoms have so dastardly been curbed by this regime in the name of Romeo Squad or Love Jihad et al. The government is also clearly not working in favour of Hindu housewives whose kitchen and even sanitary napkin now comes under GST. This government is also not working towards Hindu children since their budget for Aanganwadis, Mid Day Meals, Education, Neo Natal Care and Lactating Women have been curtailed to nearly 70% since the UPA-2 regime.
What is therefore important is to ponder upon the obvious answer. The lynch mobs are not there to scare the Muslims into submission. Rather, they are here to divert the audience from the theatre of an open loot of resources, to convert India into a market, the latest move being introduction of 100% FDI in retail. Earlier, similar designs have been played by UPA government too. It is not a coincidence that beef ban is lifted soon before elections are due in the East, neither is the introduction of GST, the meteoric rise in the prices of diesel, pulses, the failures of crops, the non availability of crop subsidies, the farmers slowly and definitely being pushed to suicides.. Creating a picture that says, “Look India’s agriculture is going downhill. Let’s bring all the farmers to the cities, create a ghetto for them, force them to menial jobs, and frustrate their youngsters. But yeah, let’s force them first to sell their land. Got Adhaar Data? Yup, we know who owns how much land..Let’s just finish them all.”
The fact of the matter is this government has actually been following the previous regime. It was Rajeev Gandhi that let monster Monsanto enter the Indian Market at behest of his World Bank masters. It was also UPA that pumped the idea of urbanization down the throat of rural youths. What Modi did soon as he came to power was fracture the budget around Monsanto’s Royalties, and forces it to reconsider its marriage with Indian farmers- thus hailed as knight in a Bhagva armour. He also introduced Pradhanmantri Krishi Beema Yojana, Jan Dhan Yojana so on and so forth. Despite the tall promises, Modi has shamelessly shortchanged the Indian farmers- first by forcing them to open bank accounts, then by conning them intro purchasing seeds and fertilizers in retail price and lastly by obstinately refusing to implement the Swaminathan Commission Report. And if this was not enough, he hit the final nails in the coffin by demonetization and GST. In two years, the farmers who once sold onions for Rs 120/ kg- are now forced to sell them for Rs 10/kg. After the distress sales
The decision of the Union government to shift its responsibility to states for doubling of farmers’ income displays the betrayal of the distressed farm community and farming at the highest level in the country. During the Budget session of the Parliament on February 28, 2015, it was announced that farmers’ income in the country will be doubled by 2022. This was taken seriously by the farmers, academicians and policymakers. Several seminars and discussions were organized by academic institutions and the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) during 2016-17. NITI Aayog also took this matter seriously.
This had followed the Swaminathan Commission’s Final Report (2006) which talked of raising the income of the farmers. The Swaminathan Commission had stated that “success in agricultural progress should be measured by the growth of farmers’ income and not just by production figures.”
It is well known that the share of agriculture in the GDP of the country has fallen from close to 30 per cent in 1990-91 to 14 per cent in the recent years (2014-15). This is the reason that income security of the farmers is being focused by many scholars in view of continued phenomenon of farmers’ suicides in the last two decades. It is accepted by the Government of India through National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) data that more than 3 lakh farmers have committed suicide in the country since 1997 when these figures began to be collected in the country. It was also brought out in the National Sample Survey (NSS) 66th round that more than 40 per cent of farmers had expressed their desire to leave agriculture as it was a non-viable occupation. It was also found that the majority of the cultivators in the country comprised small and marginal farmers. They constituted more than 4/5th of the total holdings that have become unviable. Their income was falling short of annual expenditure and it was pushing them to mounting debt traps and suicides.
As popular columnists would repeatedly say, the Union Government has neither the will nor the capacity to act to affectively change the ground situation; it has thought to pass on this responsibility to the state governments. The state governments are crippled in terms of their capacity to provide loan waiver, make adequate resources for price and institutional support to the farmers and invest adequately in improving area under irrigation by increasing water efficiency.
While, it is a common knowledge that NITI Aayog is serious about doubling farmers’ income. Member (Agriculture) of the NITI Aayog made this issue a subject of his presidential address to the annual conference of the “Indian Society of Agricultural Economics, on November 21, 2016 held at Assam Agricultural University, Jorhat (Assam). He announced that doubling of farmers’ real income was feasible to the extent of 75 per cent by 2022-23. This was possible by raising agricultural productivity (16.7 per cent), livestock value addition (10.8 per cent), crop intensity (3.4 per cent), crop diversification (5 per cent), better price realization (9.1 per cent) and shift to non-farm allied agricultural occupations (13.4 per cent). This could raise the farmers’ income by 66%. Schemes like Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana, Soil Health Card, Pranparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana and Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana; are actually doable.
So, why farmers keep committing suicides? Or why millions of Daliths, Muslims, and Adivasi youths remain unemployed, vulnerable, and privy to violence, hunger, slavery, destitution and lynchings? A chance meeting with an Agronomy expert, who sits in a plum post at my city’s Agricultural University, when asked, why government benefits do not reach the last person in the queue, he said, “Govenrment should stop appeasing the poor. They are lazy and stupid. They have no yearning to grow. They are happy with rice and salt they receive in subsidized rates. They eat, sleep and watch TV. Once these benefits are taken away, the poor will start working hard and contribute to nation’s progress. Government sops have never been about poor people. It’s about Elections. What’s there to discuss about it?” He forgets to mention, just how 2.18 Lakh Crore Rupees remain unspent, annually from the NCSP, TSP funds- that could change the scenario around “poor” dramatically. Anyways, this is a popular jargon.
What’s unpopular is the how the Rich, the middle class, the 11%, the Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas-the ones living with material wealth and comfort- have done nothing to possess them. They do so through inheritance. The casteist wealth gap is one of the largest in India nowadays. The opportunities for wealth building has been systematically been denied to generations of Scheduled Castes, Daliths, Adivasis and Muslims in India. So, attending schools, colleges, Mid Day Meals nor subsidized rice or working full time jobs can ever bridge this wealth gap. Multiple researches have proved this.
So, things like beef ban, the lynchings and riots tend to harm a migrant worker from Wes Bengal like Afzarul or Mohammad Ikhlakh, a Manusmriti puts a noose around the neck of Rohith Vemula, but it never creates a ripple into the lives of Salman Khan, Anurag Kashyap, Fawad Khan or Anupam Kher and others who belong to the 1% owning the wealth of nation. One needs to diagnose the malaise and then proceed for treatment.
The Author is an independent journalist, writer and Intersectional Feminist. I have worked with development sector for some time, and have contributed articles as an Assistant News Editor for The Hitavada News Editor, a Regional English Daily for 10 years. After working with media for more than a decade I have come to understand, stories ought to be told from the voice of the deliberately silenced echos, and those that are preferably unheard. For Dalits, Bahujan, Adivasis and Women, this world is a battlefield, their stories- are what we need.