March 28, 2017
Farm-debt and Suicides: Role of the state
A public interest litigation before the Supreme Court is looking into the causes of farmers debts and suicides and is asking central and state governments to file their affidavits describing their action plan to address this calamity.
Bharat has come to the status of a country decisively defeated in war, a country devastated by the policies and laws (sanctions) imposed on it by its own successive elected governments in last seventy years. As a result, the contribution of the farm sector to GDP has shrunk from 40 to less than 10 percent, and performs well below national average scores in almost all parameters of measurement. More than 3.5 lakh farmers have committed suicides in last decade.
An online article in Swaraj describes a slew of measures to address the issue of farm debt and farmers suicides. These elements of Bharat Utthan are based on the understanding of related issues as put forth by Shetkari Sanghatana and on Sharad Joshi’s concept of restructuring of our rural economy on the lines of post war Marshall Plan. The plan needs to be taken seriously by the government at center and also at state so that in a reasonable period farmers willing to stay in agriculture would be able to do their business and pay off the principal amount of loan or exit agriculture and move into other vocations safely.
At this stage, it would be a precious contribution of Sanghatana if these concepts are viewed seriously and are embodied into the plan for addressing farmers debts and suicides.
Bharat Utthaan Karyakram
(a) Writing off of all outstanding debts (illegal and immoral) and power arrears of all farmers.
(b) Scrapping of all the existing laws and mechanisms related to farm lands, farm-produce and trade namely
- The land ceiling act and land-use acts
- Essential Commodities and Services Maintenance Act (ESMA)
- Land Acquisition Act (LARR)
(c) Removing all the blocks and interventions in processing, transporting and trading of farm produce to clear the way for realization of fair price.
(d) Also remove all restrictions on research and development of farm technology including GM technology. The education and training systems should be freed from the clutches of governments.
(e) The state has a solemn duty to provide public goods like infrastructure (roads, irrigation, power, transport) and foster open policies to stimulate private investment in labs, marketing, processing etc. For this a mega fund of Bharat Utthan Nidhi (भारत-उत्थान-निधी) should be established.
(f) The state also has a solemn duty to update all land records urgently and efficiently with the help of IT systems so that families can sell, rent, mortgage, transfer, monetize these resources and plan their future economic activities.
(g) Scrap the National Food Security Act and Food Corporation of India in favour of cash transfer to needy families.
(h) Institute a forensic audit of all farm loans and hold banks accountable. Ensure fair banking practices in farm – credit system as per Reserve Bank of India regulations.