Farmers are agitating in Madhya Pradesh and other states. Ruling party (BJP) is trying to wave it off either by alleging that the protesters are not farmers or by emotional words like "I am also son of a farmer ...". BJP will do well to understand the ground realities and stop responding by hollow statements. Many of the protesting farmers are either BJP workers or have been BJP activists in the past. Shivkumar Sharma, a key leader of the movement, was an active BJP and Sangh Parivar leader not too long ago.
BJP's thinking about governance has been dominated by bureaucrats, ex-bureaucrats and their friends. Maximizing government revenue, increasing salaries etc. of babus and boosting public spending (more public spending = more money under the table) has been the central theme of BJP's policies whether at state level or at central level. Governance under BJP has become a systematic and ever increasing loot of the private / non-government sector to finance ever-expanding government. Modi's slogan of maximum governance with minimum government has been long forgotten.
Across the country, non-government productive sectors are crying. Industry is in bad shape. Farmers are agitating. Government is showing GDP growth figures as proof of its performance without realizing that a man who is experiencing pain has no use for statistics. Much of GDP growth figures are either due to higher levels of sucking of resources by state and resultant increased public spending or are a result of some dressing up.
Farmers of the country have genuine grievances. The moment agricultural prices of a commodity start rising, the government intervenes to make prices fall. Intervention may be by announcing imports or may be in some other form. When prices start falling, help to farmers is either too little or too late. For example, there is no reason why onions should not sell at Rs. 50 per kg in some months of the year. The moment onion prices start rising beyond what the urban elite considers as good price, the government intervenes by announcing ban on exports and permitting imports. On the other hand when prices have fallen to nonviable levels (like at present), Madhya Pradesh government has announced purchase of onions at Rs. 8 per kg. How was this price of Rs. 8 per kg arrived at? Does this price ensure that the farmer is able to get a reasonable profit? The fact is that the farmer loses money on this price. The price has been arrived at without any calculation of costs of producing onions. To add insult to injury, the farmer is not able to get even this price since this is only an announced price; actual purchase at this price is nominal.
Today, a peon in central government office gets about Rs. 25,000 per month which translates to more than Rs. 350,000 per year when all perks and facilities are added up. The skill-set required for a peon's job is practically zero. The fellow merely sits around, carries files and stops people from entering the boss's cabin (yes, you can bribe or tip him to open the door to boss's cabin). A farmer with 5 acres of irrigated land cannot, mostly, earn Rs. 350,000- per year even if he plants two crops a year. No wonder that every farmer's son is willing to become a peon, but no peon's son is willing to become a farmer.
It is indeed sad and ironic that farmers and their dependents constitute more than two thirds of the country's population. Yet, the political and economic system has become more and more loaded against the farmer and biased in favor of the government babu and chaprasi. Surely, loading of the dice against the producers and in favor of the parasites did not start during BJP's regime. But there is no doubt that BJP has added on to the unjust anti-farmer and pro-babu practices.
It is high time that BJP understands the genuine grievances of productive sections of Indian society and stops cuddling the already-pampered government employees and officers.
7 June 2017
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ANIL CHAWLA is an engineer and a lawyer by qualification but a philosopher by vocation and a legal and management consultant by profession.
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