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One ‘family’ and the farm distress

Modi's claims apart, the record of the NDA government on the welfare of farmers so far has been nondescript.

PM Modi has a remarkable knack to connect his audience with what he has in mind. Over the last weekend, while addressing a rally in Jaipur, he referred to the Congress ‘bail gadi’, making a dig at “several big leaders and former ministers of the party out on bail these days”.

Only a day before that former minister Shashi Tharoor had secured bail in the case in which he is accused of abetting the suicide of wife Sunanda Pushkar, the similarity of the surname with the famous pilgrim centre in Rajasthan being only incidental. The other day in Punajb, Modi’s narrative was the time-tested Jai Jawan Jai Kisan, the state being proud of its credentials on both counts.

He spoke about how the previous governments had made everything, including the interests of farmers, subservient to the welfare of ‘one family’ and accused Congress of betraying the farmers, using them only as a vote bank to win elections.”Farmers are the soul of our nation; they are our ‘annadata’.

But the Congress always betrayed them and told lies to them,” he said. Modi lamented that despite toiling hard, farmers had lived a life of despair for decades because of the policies of Congress-led governments. But he said the NDA government was trying to restore respect to farmers and soldiers, and was committed to doubling farmers’ income by 2022. Although it was a promise, he was saying it with the assurance of having achieved the feat already.

Modi’s claims apart, the record of the NDA government on the welfare of farmers so far has been nondescript. It was only after the drubbing that the BJP received at the hands of farmers in the Gujarat elections that the Modi government began focussing on farm distress, which acquired alarming dimensions in the past four years, with farmer suicides in the agriculture dominated states such as Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat becoming a routine.

With General Elections due in less than a year from now, the government is in a desperate catch-up bid and has since announced a slew of measures to ameliorate the conditions of farmers. But many of these have been found to suffer major inadequacies.

Although the Modi government is seeking to make a big show of the announcement of minimum support price for kharif crops, the fact remains that the 50 per cent return on the cost of inputs envisaged by the MSP is a far cry from what was recommended by the Swaminathan Committee.

Price is definitely an issue, but it is only one part of the problem. Perhaps a bigger issue is in ensuring delivery and the elimination of middle men, who form one of the strong support bases of the ruling party, and it takes self-sacrificing courage to touch them.

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