Farmers’ woes Part 1: Irrigation and Transportation

The place was humongous. The ground was uneven, trees and plants were planted randomly. Since, it was a full moon, it was not completely dark. But it looked scary, the shrubs, the bushes and their shadows looked like ghosts. At the extreme left, the ground was slightly more even compared to the rest. A light bulb was loosely hanging on the only electric pole in the area, below which a young man was searching something hurriedly. He kept on looking for hours, some  passers by also joined him. The group of people were aggressively looking everywhere, they were screaming and shouting. It had become a complete chaos.

At some distance on the right was an old man sitting, trying to understand what was the chaos all about. After some time, he could not resist himself and walked up to the young man who had gathered all others.

The old man went up to the young man, asked “what are you looking for?” The young man replied “I am looking for a golden key.” The old man asked again “You people are looking at the same place for hours. Are you sure the key is here? What if the key is not here and somewhere else?” To this, the young man looked at the old man, stared for a few minutes, took a deep breath and said “See old man, I know exactly where the key is or rather the keys are. Look at this place, this place, where I am looking for the keys is beneficial for me, it is safe and comfortable, I could keep looking for ever here. If I tell these people that the key is behind a bush in a ditch, they would make me go there.  Do you know what all dangerous creatures could come out of the bushes? I know the dangers because that place was not such a mess since beginning, people for their selfish gains made it like this and people like me for our own selfish gains looked the other way. It would take real hard work, commitment, a lot of time, efforts and patience to get the key.

The old man went back to his seat at the side. After a few minutes, he got and went up to the young leader and said “What will you do if I go ahead and tell these people that the keys are not here but in the bushes?” The young man smiled at him and said “You are most welcome, old man. Good luck with that. And by the way, you would not be the first one trying to do that. Many came and went before you, but I am still here, you can’t do anything about that

The strange part of the story is that the old man was getting a very hard time explaining this to a lot of people who continued searching at the wrong place.

Some Indian politicians would relate to this story. For instance if you take the rural or farmer’s distress you could very well see this. Farm loan waiver and minimum income is one such area where some politicians are trying to find the key to the farmers’ issues. There is nothing new in this, every five year the party who tries to run an occupation, offers this waiver. And then what happens? the farmers may not commit suicide that year, but they commit it the next year. Why? Because the underlying problems remained intact. The only thing these waiver do is make the farmers dependent of the government.

The very first problem  and the most shameful of all, the biggest reason as to why any farmer, big or small, rich or poor should not vote for Congress or for any party looking for a coalition with INC is irrigation. Only one third of India’s cultivable land is reliably irrigated i.e. by rivers, major-minor canals, rain-harvesting systems, ground water tube-wells etc. Two third of India’s cultivable land is dependent on the monsoon. WHY? In fact when the Atal Bihari Vajpayee lead NDA propogated the idea of interlinking rivers, it was strongly opposed. Who opposed it? The so-called environmentalists along with the Congress opposed it. Mr. Rahul Gandhi who is now pretending to be the massiah of farmers just before elections, in 2009 said on record that interlinking rivers would be a disaster. A disaster for who? I guess for the party who wants farmers to be dependent of the doles that would be offered just before the elections every five years. How disgusting it is to see a country where at some part the people are dying because of drought and at some other part people are dying because of flood at approximately the same time. How is farm loan waiver going to fix this irrigation problem? Do you think farmers are taking loans so as to dig a water canal?

In addition to this, the one third part that is reliably irrigated also consists of tube wells. How are tube wells running? Even after seven decades in 2014 there were more than eighteen thousand villages without electricity. Those tube wells were running on diesel generators; an extra cost forced on the farmers. Even if every village has electricity access, the farmers would easily irrigate the farms by themselves. Electrification is a three-step process. The first is to extend the infrastructure to the village, the second is to connect the household and the third is to ensure reliable and affordable supply on a sustained basis. The Congress government in decades of its rule, could not even extend the infrastructure to the villages i.e just installing a transformer in the village and connecting it to a power grid. At least Modi government has achieved the first goal, and the second goal is progressing. How is farm loan waiver going to fix this electricity problem? Do you think farmers are taking loans to install transformers? Talking about renewable sources of generating electricity like solar panels and wind mills with in congress rule would look a distant dream. PM Modi at the time when he was a CM made sure that every one had an access to electricity, he knew electricity would allow them the access to water. He had a vision then and has a vision now. He pushed the solar power project like no one else.

Moving on to the next critical issue. If somehow a small farmer survives all this, even with a decent productivity, he might end up in a big loss. There is still an extremely critical piece missing; transportation, the road connectivity. You have six lane highways for you, or a separate lane for the VIPs-VVIPs but not a single lane “pakka” road connecting the villages and that too in seven decades. That’s a shame especially when you do not require high tech services for building a very basic “pakka” road. Cold storage facilities or food processing industries in rural areas would look like a fantasy when the most basic infrastructure in the form of roads was missing. The farmers either ended up wasting their produce or sold it at an extremely low prices, either to the villagers or to the middlemen.  If there were good roads available, they would have had an access to a bigger market. Modi government in its first term has built roads at a rate three times faster than any other previous government. How is farm loan waiver going to fix this transportation problem? Do you think farmers are taking loans to build roads? Even if you don’t like Modi for any reason, you should not vote for Congress or for any party going for the coalition with INC, if you do so, you get the same what you have always been getting. Charity every five years at your own cost.

The existence of reliable irrigation and transportation solutions are the most basic and mandatory conditions for a sustained agriculture growth. However, they are not the only ones. There are many other factors resulting in a chaos. Low productivity, soil nutrition, fertilizers, pesticides etc. I have gathered some more information on these factors too and am currently putting them together in the form of a separate post. Whatever be the case, one thing is certain, farm loan waiver is not going to fix anything at all. If it were any good, they should have already fixed the issues. There have been doles offered every election. Farm loan waiver is just a way to buy the votes and nothing else. A farmer’s debt is not a cause of a problem, the debt is a result of a problem. The real problems are the reasons why a farmer is not able to repay his loans even after working several times harder than required. He gives his best, works day and night but still cannot get the required results. If anyone wants to solve the problem, he/she should at least look at the actual problems. What do you treat? The fever or the virus that causes the fever? Fever is an indication that the body has been attacked by some foreign particles. Fever is a rise in body temperature. The treatment includes killing those foreign particles i.e. different types of viruses. You don’t put yourself in a refrigerator to lower the temperature i.e. get rid of fever. Do you?

Please stay tuned for the next blog: Farmer’s woes Part 2: Low Productivity.

Thanks for your time and patience!!!

Also read: Floods and Democracy & The addiction to Freebies and Discounts

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