By Brajendra Nath Singh
New Delhi, June 18 (IANS) Loan waiver is not a permanent solution for the problems faced by farmers, feels the chief of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s farmers’ cell, Virendra Singh “Mast”, who says only a fair price for their produce can mitigate the situation.
He is also of the view that the M.S. Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations are not feasible as the government body which fixes input costs has failed in its job.
“It (loan waiver) is not a permanent solution but a short-term relief. The central government is not in a position to spare funds for loan write-offs,” Mast told IANS in an interview.
He was replying to a question about the mounting demand for writing off farm loans, particularly in states like Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra where agrarian unrest has led to loss of lives.
A third-term Lok Sabha member from Uttar Pradesh, whose profession is agriculture, Mast said that family “break-ups” are one of the reasons causing unrest among farmers and affecting their incomes.
“Their problems should be solved politically and the unrest will continue till they are economically, socially, politically and culturally strengthened,” he said.
Mast’s remarks assume significance in the wake of unrest among farmer communities in many parts of the country.
He said that the main issue that is impacting farmers’ lives is that they are not getting profitable prices for their produce.
“The biggest issue is how farmers get profitable prices for their produce, which is the base of their economy. How they can be strengthened economically,” he said.
“Being a farmer, I have found that break-up in families is one of the reasons for these or such problems. When a family is divided, the acreage (land) reduces and due to this the cost of farming increases, which impacts production. Undoubtedly, it’s a social problem — but we also need to find a political solution for this,” he said.
Singh said that farmers’ incomes cannot be doubled in a day or two but the National Democratic Alliance government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is moving in that direction.
“Our focus is to reduce the cost of farming by improving the irrigation situation, supplying power at a low cost and connecting roads, among other things,” he said.
He said that Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations can be implemented only if the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) accurately fixes the input costs, which he said “it has failed to do”.
Citing the variations in input costs based on different geographical conditions, Mast said the CACP has failed to take those into account.
“In coastal areas, the cost of farming is much lower than that of landlocked areas,” he pointed out.
The National Commission on Farmers, constituted under the chairmanship of M.S. Swaminathan, suggested a Minimum Support Price, including an additional 50 per cent over and above the total expenses incurred on farming.
Asked about the death of five people in police firing in Mandsaur, Singh said that movements, agitations and disagreements are part of a healthy democracy, but violence has no place in it.
“Talks were going on between the farmers’ organisations and the Madhya Pradesh government and they had almost reached an agreement; but what happened a day after that — the agitation went aggressive and violence erupted.
“I don’t approve of firing on farmers. There can’t be firing during a movement and those responsible for it need to be punished. It also needs to be probed under what circumstances the police opened fire. When there is violence during any movement, its objective is lost,” Mast said.
He also advised the agitated farming community to refrain from displaying a negative attitude and come out with suggestions.
“Those who want real solutions to the agrarian crisis should come out with suggestions,” he said.
Mast also said that the agrarian crisis and farmer’s problems are not new to this country and it is not true that the country is facing it after the BJP took power in 2014.
“In fact, those who ruled this country after independence did not work to eradicate these problems. Narendra Modi is the first Prime Minister of this country who cares about farmers. Such problems can’t be solved by banking only on the government. The government, administration and society need to work together to solve them,” he said.
(Brajendra Nath Singh can be reached at email@example.com)