Yavatmal: Gopabai Rathod has become quite popular in her village now. Several television channels’ reporters have make their way to her village – Dabhadi in Yavatmal district of Vidarbha. They ask her to talk about the 'change' that has been brought in the past five years. Gopabai – who is now quite articulate in speaking to the camera – spells out all the assurances given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 in her village while doing first chapter of 'Chai Pe Charcha'. In the end, she asks, "Now Modi should tell us what promises have been fulfilled. None. Not a single one. We farmers have seen more trouble under his government than ever before."
Anyone who understands politics knows that the severity of the agrarian crisis in the past five years is bound to hurt the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the upcoming elections. The only crucial question is: how much and whether the BJP will be able to control this damage.
Yavatmal district in Maharashtra has seen the highest number of farmers’ suicides during the BJP government’s five years at the Centre. It is infamously called the ‘capital of farmers’ suicides’. Ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Modi had come to this district. He had promised implementation of the Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations, which assures a rate of MSP plus 50 per cent to the farmers. Modi government, in its annual budget of 2018, had reiterated its promise. It said that the Kharip season of 2018 will see the implementation of the recommendations. However, the promise remains unfulfilled to date.
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Sanjay Manikrao Kolhe, a 52-year-old farmer from Datodi village, Arni tehsil in Yavatmal district met this reporter at the Arni Market Yard. It is three kilometre away from Dabhadi village where Modi had made this promise for the first time. Kolhe had reached the market yard to look at his produce – 40 quintal of chana (cicer). “Traders are not buying. Rate is being quoted as just Rs 4,000, even as the government has said that the rate is Rs 4,400. But there is no protection for the farmers. Shouldn’t the government have bought this from farmers directly?” asked Kolhe.
Anant Charegaonkar, who has sold his 16 quintal chana for just Rs 4,086 per quintal, said, “We were expecting something between Rs 4,700 and Rs 4900. It could have helped us buy seeds for Kharip. For us, it’s a loss of Rs 1100 there. For the government, it may be a small amount. But for me, it is huge.”
According to the data available with the government, in 2013, the number of farmers’ suicides was 288, which went up to 296 in 2014 and to 386 in 2015. The real numbers on the ground could be much higher.
This shows that the agricultural distress has further intensified. It also shows that the Modi government’s claims and advertisements on agriculture do not match with the ground reality. Against this backdrop, whether farmers’ anger will be converted into a political statement remains to be seen.
In this regard, Kolhe commented, “This government has a habit of lying. It’s time to change it.”
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