The Plight of Our Farmers
Every 38 minutes in which we consume about an episode of the latest Netflix series, a farmer commits Suicide in India. Suicides among farmers have always been a major issue in our country, be it because of failure of the crop, heavy debt, poor payment or adverse weather conditions. But these current trying times have worsened the farmers circumstances pushing suicide rates sky high.
Changes brought into the agricultural sector during Covid-19
“They produce the goods, but who is there to buy it?”
Widespread Market shutdowns have resulted in fewer buyers being available to purchase their goods, pushing prices down, thereby reducing incomes.
Although agriculture services were allowed to continue during lockdown to ensure food supply in the country, the industry is still severely hit by the stringent lockdown regulations.
Lack of transport facilities means perishable goods; the major constituent of our agriculture, cannot be brought to buyers. The government raised fuel prices in the middle of the pandemic, citing the costs of the lockdown, causing even more adversity to the Agricultural community.
Since farming is labour intensive, farmers need to hire workers to work their fields, these workers have become desperate and jobless after nearly 4 months because of the lockdown as they started to demand double or triple their usual rates.
Farmers also face a lack of fertilizers and pesticides because of their inability to go to markets.
Commercial, export and manufacturing oriented crops have no market currently. Unable to sell their crops, they set their farms on fire, dump millions of dollars’ worth of fruits and vegetables on the roads or plow them back into the fields, adding to their misery.
More than half (56%) of the farmers said that the lockdown has impacted their ability to prepare for the upcoming sowing season.
The Government Response
There hasn’t really been much of a response. The reports of the spike in mass suicides amongst farmers did not gain any traction across the country. The reason for this ignorance was the inadequacies of the Media in reporting it and that of the Government in trying to suppress the issue altogether. The Ministry of Agriculture in New Delhi declined to answer any questions about farmer suicides.
PM-Kisan Yojana, a farmer-centric scheme of NDA government has failed to live up to its promise, while the PM Cares Fund might provide temporary relief, but the long-term impact of the pandemic will continue to haunt the farmers.
The state of farmers in this country is adverse to say the least, demanding drastic changes which no one is willing to make. But, the farmers have started to speak up, as Nirmala Singh, whose Father commited suicide by drinking a bottle of pesticide in a small village of Nothern Punjab said, “Now, we just hope Modi gets the message.”
The Hindu, ICRISAT, The Economic Times