Three more farmers have committed suicide in Punjab in the past few days. Predictably, they all had been struggling to make ends meet from just a couple of acres of land and were reeling under debt. It once again puts a question mark on the viability of the various doles and loan waivers announced over the years by different governments to woo the farmers. Other than temporarily pacifying the peasants, these measures have proved to be mere band aids. Though, undoubtedly, the sops have reaped votes for political parties. Once the dust of the much-touted grandiose plans, purported to uplift their condition, settles down, another sad reality sinks in. A huge majority of the toiling tillers with small or no landholdings finds itself filtered out. In a rude jolt to this most needy section, the fine print detailing the financial benefits of insurance schemes or loan waivers more often than not leaves it devoid of any benefit.
Perhaps, in doing so, the government’s money calculations make prudent economic sense. But they can be called only miscalculations if they fail to prevent the farmers from gulping down pesticides or tightening the noose around their necks; if they fail to give him a life of dignity, with his families enjoying a good life. The policy-makers must address the agrarian crisis. It is indeed shameful if the feeders of the nation do not have enough on their plate.
For the farm sector to become productive, it is essential that the crop schemes are designed in such a way that agriculture, like business, becomes remunerative. In addition to MSPs, subsidies and direct money transfers in the beneficiaries’ accounts, an imaginative plan enabling the cultivator to have some control on the pricing mechanism of his product is the need of the hour. Easy access to credit from banks for farmers will counter the rising input costs and make cultivation viable. The spectre of farmers committing suicide is a blatant instance of the state failing to do its duty. A permanent solution to farm distress would come from comprehensive land and agriculture reforms rather than short-term lollipops.