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Skyrocketing Prices of Pulses and the Agrarian Crisis: Impact of Neo-liberal Policies

Newsclick interviewed Vijoo Krishnan, Joint Secretary All India Kisan Sabha, on the agrarian crises leading to farmer suicides and rising prices of food grains. Vijoo traces backs the agrarian crises to the new economic reforms and neo liberal policies adopted by various governments post its implementation. In addition to that, the current regime’s pro corporate policies have pushed the agricultural sector to the margins resulting in increased rate in farmers’ suicides.  Vijoo explains how the minimum support prices which are being paid to the farmers are much less than the original cost of production, resulting in distress for the farmers. On the rising prices of food grains, Vijoo explains that since the new government has come to power, prices of commodities used in farming, like fertilizers, have gone up. Also the phenomena of black marketing has increased and that too mostly among BJP ruled states which have resulted in such high prices. 

Rough Transcript:

Pranjal - Hello and welcome to our program. Today we have with us Vijoo Krishnan, Joint Secretary, All India Kisan Sabha. We are going to discuss about the agrarian crisis the country is facing these days.

What do you think the reason for this agrarian crisis we are witnessing these days? and as you see the prices of pulses are continuously on hike?

Vijoo Krishnan - The root of the agrarian crisis lies in the neo-liberal economic policies which our country has embarked upon from 1991. And especially after the Modi government has come to power, there has been aggressive pursuit of these policies and that has lead to the present situation. If you see the campaign that was launched by Modi and the BJP was that, they would bring the 'Ache din' for the farmers. But just after they have come-in, one is the prices of inputs used in agriculture rising, there is no price control and simultaneously prices of the crops, there is no commensurate increase. In fact, in most of the crops, the minimum support price announced is much lower than the cost of production. So if you take the example of even these pulses that we are talking about, while the cost of Tuvar is around 200 and 220 rupees per Kilogram. A farmer gets less than 40 or 42 rupees per Kilogram. That is the minimum support price that is announced. And many of the times since there is no government procurement, even these prices not; farmers have to sell-in at distressed prices. You see, the pulses are grown with a high risk. It is in the rainfed area, there is no incentive of farmers and also even in other crops, while the minimum support price announces often much lower than the cost of production, even the provisions for states to give bonuses, that has been stopped by this particular government; keeping in-line with the dictate of the World Trade Organisation and the countries like USA and European Union.

P - Can you throw some more light on why; I mean if you specifically look at the pulses, why there is so much hike in the prices? when you are talking about minimum support price, where is this money? you said 42 rupees minimum support money is paid so where the entire the money is going?

VK - You should look a the kind of hoarding going on. More than fifty thousand tonnes have been seized in last few days and where is this been done? Maximum has been done in Maharashtra, which is been the BJP ruled state; Rajasthan, again a BJP ruled state. So this is something we have to note and it is a fact that the consumption of pulses is higher than the production in India. So you are at times required to import from outside, but there is no effort to increase the productivity. There is a pulse mission and it is only resorting to full page advertisement in the newspapers about how pulse production can be increased. There is no production enhancing techniques, better agronomic practises, high yielding varieties, drought resistant varieties and also in terms of the irrigation; wherever pulses is grown, I think of the total area under the pulses production, not even 1/10 of that area is irrigated. What are they doing in terms of watershed development, in terms of water harvesting or micro irrigation efforts? Nothing, almost nil on this.

P - So the basic infrastructure that needs to be developed around the agriculture that is missing while government is paying subsidy to the big corporate houses?

VK - That is been systematically dismantled. It is not just whatever limited system was existing for extension, for procurement and also to ensure that, there is some interface between the agriculture scientist and farmers; that is systematically being removed. This government feels that the people dependent on agriculture should be drastically curtailed and also there is a tendency to take over these lands for the name of industrialisation. It is these very areas; for instance if you take the Delhi-Mumbai corridor, the lakhs of square kilometer of land that would be taken are those areas, where these pulses and other food grains have been grown. That is also leading to the pressure in the country.

P - Also if you look at, though the current government has gone back on regarding the land acquisition bill but they had also been pushing up their agenda that land which is cultivable will also be included in the land acquisition act. So I mean there is a systematic, say hampering of the agricultural economy is going on, if you look at the current regime. Do you agree by that?

VK - That is the direction, that is the vision the current regime has for agriculture in our country. Repeatedly it has been mentioned that, the number of people dependent on agriculture will be drastically cut-down but without creating any alternative in terms of employment generation. We all know that, there is even no enough employment being generated. So that is something I often like to quote one instance that when the BJP government was ruling in Karnataka, it talked about promoting agri-tourism up to 2000 acres of land could be taken and documented called 'integrated agri-development plan'. It very clearly mentions that, what would happen in the name of agri-tourism was bullock cart riding and feeding of cows and goats. So that is the vision this government has for the farmers of our country.

P - When you talk about cows and goats also we have currently seen what the current government is preaching, in terms of cow slaughter, beef ban and it also related to entire process of animal husbandry' while one side farmers are committing suicide and nobody is paying attention towards that. So don't you think this also a medium to divert attention of general masses?

VK - Very clearly, the kind of anger raising against this government. You see very recently Maharashtra and Haryana elected BJP to power and they came to power almost single handedly. And those states, the kind of anger that is raising against them, against the Narendra Modi government. BJP and the RSS are very clearly sensing it. They are trying to divide the peasantry, divide the rural masses by using this divisive tendencies and that is how unfortunately this cow slaughter ban and such things are being used. It is closely linked to the rural economy. The kind of loses that the farmers are; in Haryana farmers are mentioning how because of the kind of campaign which is being launched against the cow slaughter, the manner in which the stray cattle destroying their crops. It is leading tension between villages; the stray cattle from one village destroying the crops, people have to spend hours in the fields to protect against these stray cattles. That is, there is no effort to deal with these problems that farmers face.

P - What do you think is the solution for the current agrarian crisis that we are facing? And if we look at the neo-liberalism agenda, that the current regime is pushing, how do we resist them?

VK - If in one sentence I put, solution for the agrarian crisis firstly need a total reversal of the neo-liberal economic policies and then along with that, certain confidence building measures are required to give confidence to the farmers that, when they cultivate and whatever invested on cultivation, they would get some remunerative prices. It cannot happen that, the cost of production; for instance of a crop like paddy is around 1800 and you fix a price like 1380 per quintile. And similarly the sugarcane,; the cost of production is something like 3000 per tonne and you fix price like 2200 per tonne. And that also not being paid to the farmers. Again in the case of Ragi, which is grown in rainfed area. The cost of production around 2020 per quintile and the price fixed is 1600 per quintile. Every quintile, the farmer is loosing more than 400 rupees.That is, if procured by the government. And it is neither paid in time nor procurement mechanism. The farmers are totally dependent on these traders who are making use of this distress and profiteering from that.

P - Thanks Vijoo for giving us your time and things proceed we will come back to you. Thanks a lot.

DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for Newsclick are typed from a recording of the program. Newsclick cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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