According to the current political scenario, it appears that there wouldn't be any big enough opposition party to stand tall against PM Modi in upcoming General Elections 2019. However, farmers could pose the real challenge for him. It's the second consecutive year when Indian Farmer organisations are protesting against the Government.
On Mahatma Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary, Thousand's of farmers protested on the Delhi- Ghaziabad border. They were demanding better crop MSP, lower electricity price and complete loan waiver. They also wanted the implementation of the recommendations given by Swaminathan commission. But, "Kisan Kranti Yatra" faced lathi charge, water cannons and tear gas shells. Some farmers were seriously injured.
On 20th June 2019, Narendra Modi talked to farmers on social media. But, Farmers were agitated against him for not taking a note of their real issues.
According to a National Crime Records Bureau's Report 34, Farmers and Farmworkers commit suicide every day. NCRB data reveals that in 2015, Total 8,007 Farmers and 4,595 Farm Workers committed suicide. Whereas in 2014, Farmer's suicide cases were as lower as 5,650 but 6,710 Farmworkers committed suicide that year. Data for Farmer suicide cases is yet to be published for the year 2016 and 2017.
Last year, In May 2017 the Government gave a statement to the Supreme Court that since 2013, approximately, 12,000 Farmers are committing suicide every year.
Political Analyst and the convener of the 'Swaraj Abhiyan', Yogendra Yadav tweets, "Modi Ji, only for once we want to hear you mention 'Farmer Suicides'. Even if there is no solution, you should at least admit that this is a problem."
Whether the Farmer Would Get Due Attention
VM Singh is the Convener of 'Kisan, Samanvaya Sangharsh Samiti', the group of 194 Farmer Organisations, made after Mandsaur Farmer Protests of the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.
He says, "Indian Farmer is under huge distress. The biggest problem of the farmers is that they don't get the due price of their crops. They don't even get back their invested money. It directly affects their income and loan repayment capability."
Double Income for the Farmers?
"Before BJP came into the power, we were selling soybeans for 5000-6000 Rs/ Quintal. This year we sold it for only 2,200rs/Quintal. In 2015, the price of the garlic was 15,000 Rs/ Quintal, in 2018 we were bound to sell it for only 200rs/Quintal. Onion, Chickpeas, Mustard, Fenugreek Seeds, Brown Lentil, Psyllium Husk, everything had to be sold on a half price." A Mandsaur Farmer, Indra Singh Chauhan tells Gaon Connection furiously.
There are many farmers who echo the sentiments of Indra Singh Chauhan. The data available also backs these claims. During the last four years, Farmer Income has grown only by 0.4%. According to the last report (2012-2013) of the National Sample Survey Office, NSSO, the average monthly income of the farmer is 6426 Rs. In 2002-03 It was only 2115Rs/ Month. NSSO conducts a survey on Farmers Income every 10 Years. Next survey is due for 2022-23. PM Narendra Modi projects that until 2022-23 the farmer's income would grow double.
Agricultural Economist, Bhagwan Meena questions, "Agricultural growth has been stagnant for years, so how the government would achieve the target of doubling the farmer's income by 2022?" During the current government, the agricultural growth has been only 1.9%.
While announcing the Union Budget 2018-19 the finance minister announced that according to the promise (Swaminathan Committee Recommendations), Govt. has increased the minimum support price of many crops including the wheat crop by 1.5%. But, Agricultural specialists and farmer organisations were not happy. They say, that govt. has increased the 1.5% rate on crop production cost category A2, which includes the price of seeds, compost, fertilizer, irrigation and wages of the workers. Farmer organisations demand the MSP increase above C2 cost category. The C2 category covers the cash cost and non-cash cost, the lease rent of the land and the interest on other agricultural assets.
VM Singh Says, "When we go to the market to buy a bread packet of 200gm, do they only charge us for the cost of the wheat flour? They also include the cost of the multipurpose flour, Production, marketing, company worker cost in the price of the bread! So why the farmer shouldn't be paid for the cost of the land lease, rent of the tractors and the other equipment, and for the hard work the family members put together?"
He adds, "You can't befool the farmer anymore. The farmers have awakened. We will be united and we shall be taking our due right."
Farmers Understand the Power of their Vote Bank
Farmer organisations have been planning to demonstrate the power of their vote to the govt. Farmers say that they are with no political party right now. They would vote for the party who would support the pending demands of the farmers.
It was in June 2018 when 130 farmers group backed Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh for the 10 days of major strike in seven states. The plan was to cut the supply chain for the milk, vegetables, and grains. Although it was not immensely successful, it created a pressure on the Governments.
Kedar Sirohi, who is a member of Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh says, "The farmers would play a decisive role in the General Elections of 2019".
India is an agriculture-based economy and around 50% of its population directly depends on the agriculture. Now, the heat of the farmer's agitation has started reaching to the Government. Farmer issues are taking place in the mainstream discourse of the country. PM Modi also keeps mentioning the farmers in his speeches. Farmer welfare workshops are being organised. And the best part is that Agricultural scientists and specialists are reaching to the farms directly out of their labs. Today, urea is not an issue for the farmers. Long pending irrigation plans are getting executed. Govt. has allocated 8000 cr. Rs. to the sugar industry to meet the dues of the sugarcane farmers. Agricultural funds are directly reaching in the accounts of the sugar cane farmers. Organic farming has been widely promoted. Many farmer loans have been waived.
But, the political environment changed in May 2017. The farmer's agitation that started from Maharashtra spread in swiftly in various states. On the day of 6th June 2017, 6 farmers were killed in Mandsaur police firing. Farmer associations marched towards Delhi, united. After the strike, this year in June, Farmers have warned against VoteBandi, which is not giving vote to any political party. Before, political analysists were considering PM Modi to be in power until 2024. But, the scenario has changed in 2018. The final result of 2019 would heavily depend on how much PM could do for the farmers before elections.