Following is an image of the front page of Indian Express Mumbai edition. Between the two news headlines lie all the problems and solutions.
The first headline “Sea of Farmers in Mumbai, here’s what they say”, says “Through Sunday, the financial capital witnessed 40,000 farmers and tribals from across Maharashtra march slowly across the length of the city. Having walked over 160 km in six days, the men and women traversed their final 20 km into central Mumbai even as the state government scrambled to prevent the embarrassment of a gherao of the legislature as threatened by the CPI (M)-affiliated All India Kisan Sabha that has organised the long march.”
The second headline “After 25 years, Narmada dam sufferer showed land for resettlement” says “One rainy night in 1993, around 1 am, Kesu Dedhya Tadvi saw swirling river waters rush into his hut in Nandurbar district’s Manibeli village. His was the first hut on the Maharashtra side of the Narmada to be submerged by the Sardar Sarovar dam. Last month, Tadvi, now 85 years old, was shown a plot of land where he will be rehabilitated by the state government.”
Wondering why CPI (M) never took out a protest march for Kesu Dedhya Tadvi? Answers are simple, CPI (M) has zero interest in solving problems of farmers or tribals.
What Mumbai is witnessing in the form of farmers march is nothing but politics. The second news also reminds one that the current BJP government in Maharashtra is working to solve not only the current issues of its citizens but also the pending ones left unattended by the Congress-NCP government.
Keeping politics aside let’s move on the issue of farmers.
A year after achieving double-digit growth, the Maharashtra state’s acutely distressed agriculture sector is set to record negative growth. The economic survey 2017-18 tabled in the legislature pegs the growth rate of agriculture and allied sectors at -8.3% as against the 12.5% recorded last year. The reason for the dip is insufficient (84.3%) rainfall in 2017. Of the 355 talukas in the state, 147 received deficient rain. In 2016, the state had received 124.6% of the average rainfall. This year, in contrast, several parts, especially Marathwada and Vidarbha, recorded a long dry spell of 45 days. Production of cereals, pulses, oilseeds and cotton in the kharif season is expected to decrease by 4%, 46%, 15% and 44% respectively. The total production of cereals in the state was 32 lakh metric tonnes as against 53 lakh metric tonnes in 2016. Similarly, the total production of foodgrains was 51lakh metric tonnes as against 73 lakh metric tonnes the previous year.
Despite the monsoon playing truant thrice in four years, the water-guzzling sugarcane crop has seen an increase in area under cultivation by 45% and in production by 25%.
The rabi season, mainly dependent on the monsoon, especially when it is withdrawing, has seen a dip in the area under cultivation by 31%. The area of cereals, pulses and oilseeds has decreased by 42%, 6% and 60% respectively, and production is estimated to dip by 39%, 4% and 73% respectively.
The average area of per person landholding in Maharashtra has been reducing gradually, like rest of India, contributing to the dip in per hectare production. Even area under horticulture crops has shrunk: it is 15.2 lakh hectares with a production of 207.5 metric tonnes as against 16.7 lakh hectares last year and production of 219.9 metric tonnes. (https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/dry-spell-wilts-state-farm-output-marathwada-shadow-lengthens/articleshow/63225352.cms)
GENESIS OF PROBLEM
The problem of irrigation is not new and needs a long-term solution which can’t be created overnight. So the question arises what has been stating governments in past have been doing to counter this problem. The answer to this question leads us to the Great Maharashtra Irrigation Scam. The Rs 35,000-crore irrigation scam in Maharashtra came to light after the Economic Survey’s observation that though Rs 70,000 crore had been spent on various projects in the last decade, the state’s irrigation potential had increased only 0.1%.
The scam involves 32 projects in the under-developed Vidarbha region alone while the rest are in Konkan and north Maharashtra. The cost of 38 irrigation projects in Vidarbha has increased by over 300% from Rs 6,672 crore to Rs 26,722 crore by the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) and this was approved in a short span of three months between June and August 2009. In yet another case, revised administrative approval for the Lower Wardha project was granted on the Independence Day, a national holiday. Interestingly, the cost was revised to Rs 2,356 crore from Rs 950 crore by VIDC executive director on that day. The cost of the Upper Wardha project in Amravati has revised to Rs 1,376 crore from Rs 661 crore. Another case is that of the Bembala river project in Yavatmal district of Vidarbha. Its cost was revised from Rs 1,278 crore to Rs 2,176 crore on August 14, 2009. (http://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/what-is-maharashtra-irrigation-scam-112092503026_1.html)
STEPS TAKEN TO PUNISH THE CULPRIT
Surprisingly CPI (M) didn’t lead a rally of farmers to Mumbai to protest against the then Congress - NCP government for Irrigation scam?
The current state government is working to punish the culprits involved. Dam contractor Jigar Thakkar, 41, an accused in the Maharashtra irrigation scam, shot himself in his car opposite Marine Plaza hotel at Marine Drive in south Mumbai in February 2018. Last month, the state Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) filed a charge sheet against Thakkar and several others in the irrigation scam. A lot of officers and politicians are under investigations and few have been arrested.
Other Reasons Harming Farmers
Since July 2017, over 1,000 farmers of Yavatmal in east Maharashtra have suffered from a toxic chemical exposure after spraying pesticides on the cotton crop. There have been fatalities too, with 23 farmers succumbing to “toxic pesticides” so far.
Steps Taken To Prevent Death Due To Pesticide
The state government constituted a seven-member Special Investigation Team to inquire into the deaths and announced ₹2 lakh in compensation to the families of the deceased. The state government wants to have a traceability of all pesticides sold to farmers in the State, therefore the new policy is being formulated. The attempt is to ensure that only pesticides registered with Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee and with Maharashtra government are sold in the State
Surprisingly CPI (M) didn’t lead a rally of farmers to Mumbai to protest against the pesticide lead problems and deaths.
STEPS TAKEN TO SOLVE THE FARMERS PROBLEM
BJP government of Maharashtra is serious about solving the farmer’s issues on a long-term basis. Some of the steps taken by the government are -
To supplement the income of farmer’s, Maharashtra state government is taking many steps. Some of them are as follows:
The state has started an initiative to preserve and brand indigenous varieties of rice. Black rice grown by particular regions of the state by tribals is known to be anti-oxidant, which is good for heart patients; similarly, brown rice has a lower glycemic index, which means it can be consumed by diabetics.
In the recent Magnetic Maharashtra Investor summit, the tribal department attracted interest from exporters and other firms which wanted to export authentic Gond art and Warli paintings abroad. The state has already decided to create a logo for such products under the banner of Maha Tribe.
There’s also a plan to create a unit for bottling and branding wild honey collected by the tribals.
Rest assured, sooner or later CPI (M) along with missionaries will come out to protest against this initiative of the government.
LONG-TERM SOLUTION FOR FARMERS
(An excerpt from the article of Neeraj Kaushal)
In the end, let’s look at the issues overlooked by the state government so far (and Maharashtra Government is not an exception to this) but needs to be looked into an emergency basis.
Politicians in India firmly believe that the woes of farmers can be solved with freebies: free electricity, free water, farm loan waivers, fertilisers and seed subsidies, minimum support prices, etc. Little attention is paid to the real problem of Indian agriculture i.e. low productivity.
Rice guzzles water and India is a water-scarce country. India has one of the lowest productivity of rice in the world. China produces roughly three times more rice than India but uses about two-thirds of India’s land area. Consequently, China’s rice productivity is close to 7 tonnes per hectare versus India’s 4. Australia’s is 10 tonnes per hectare, followed by Egypt and the US with 8.5.
So, why, despite low productivity and water shortages, Indian farmers are growing rice? The answer is market distortions in the form of free water, free electricity and minimum support prices that make it profitable for farmers in many parts of India to cultivate rice.
The story of low productivity is not limited to rice alone. India’s average yield of wheat is 3 tonnes per hectare versus China’s 5. Namibia and Zambia get 7 tonnes per hectare, New Zealand 8, and the EU countries average 6 tonnes. The same goes for most other crops.
Not only do we use more land but we also use more water, to produce less. A 2010 report (The Green, Blue and Grey Water Footprint of Rice From Both a Production and Consumption Perspective, goo.gl/4tCSGZ) by Unesco-IHE Institute for Water Education (now, IHE Deft Institute for Water Education) has computed water footprint of rice production: the ratio of total volume of water used to quantity produced. It is 2,020 Cubic Mtr per tonne in India, 970 in China, and the global average is 1,325.
A 2014 National Mission on Micro Irrigation (NMMI) impact evaluation study (goo.gl/LjupbK) in 13 states found that use of micro-irrigation technologies lowered electricity consumption 31% and fertiliser consumption about 28%, and increased average productivity of fruit 42% and of vegetables 52%. Another study showed a 45% increase in the yield of wheat, a 20% increase in the yield of a gram and a 40% increase in the yield of soybean for farmers adopting micro-irrigation, at the same time increasing water efficiency and lowering fertiliser use.
Instead of asking for loan waivers, farmers and their organisations should shift to technologies that result in efficient use of these loans.The freebies have cost Indian agriculture dearly and deprived farmers of modernisation and economic security. They should reject the political system that creates these freebies and opts for modernising agriculture.
Farming is not about the piece of land which farmers till. It is beyond that and beyond irrigation, electricity and farming technologies. It is also about road connectivity, good health, good education systems, accessible banking systems and two-way communication between government and farmers. The current government is working on all the issues simultaneously.
Only if some of the ministers could spend less time with film stars and missionaries to understand agricultural issues, spend less time to sing & dance to solve water issues and berating Hindu rituals and festivals, this situation of farmers marching to Mumbai would not have arisen!
- Sandeep Singh
Farmers are most welcome to Mumbai, it belongs to them as it is to any other Indian. Only wish they don’t come taking so much trouble to agitate, that too misguided by the communists. Communists killed the textile mills of Maharashtra now they are out to kill its agriculture.
Am sure State government will look into their issues, explain their position and the meeting will end in a win-win situation for both. The farmers should go back happy with a view of Marine Drive and have at least one plate each of Pav Bhajji and Missal Pav and not falls into the trap of communists.
Article by Mr Sandeep Singh @communalsandeep
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of NewsBharati.