What normally would have been a time for celebration for the Indian farmers has now posed an uncertainty in their survival itself. But, despite everything, the Indian Farmer toils away.

Baisakhi has traditionally been a time of celebration for Indian farmers- it marks the end of the Rabi Season and the day when their crops are ready for harvest. It is also the Sikh New Year and the Hindu Solar New Year, and thus has great religious significance to it as well.

However, this year, the Indian agricultural industry faces an unprecedented challenge. The Coronavirus pandemic has brought the country to a standstill and is possibly our worst economic emergency, ever. The lockdown imposed to curb the spread of the virus has caused a huge disruption in the agricultural supply chains, leading to problems for tge producers, transporters and consumers.

Firstly, to harvest a crop, the sector needs labour, who mostly hail from states like Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Bihar. Due to the lockdown, most of them have resorted back to their villages, where a necessary sense of comfort and belongingness will be duly provided. Due to this, farmers are unable to harvest the crop mechanically or even hand pluck it, something that will lead to late harvests, which coupled with a lower yield and a shorter window to plant the next season’s crop aggravates the problems. Even in a situation where the harvesting is done, things like packaging the produce, transporting it the mandis and then to storage facilities will remain a challenge without the required labour.

The second major issue currently is the problem with distribution. Even after the Government of India has declared agriculture as an essential (which was done on 27th March, the country went into lockdown on the 24th of March) and allowed repair and supply shops toremain functional, distribution remains a major challenge. This too is heavily linked to the lack of availability of labour and the medium that can make the produce reach from the farms to the markets. Fears about a rush to the mandis the moment the harvest takes place cannot be ignored either, leading to panic selling and a further drop in prices, negatively impacting more what is already an economically unviable activity for most farmers.

Image Caption: Transportation of Crops remains a major problem for the Agriculture Industry Image Credits: Getty Images
Image Caption: Transportation of Crops remains a major problem for the Agriculture Industry
Image Credits: Getty Images

The governments at both centre and state levels have tried to counter these problems. The Central Government has released an advance of Rs. 2000 to 7.92 Crore farmers on the PM-KISAN payments while also releasing funds for states to buy the crop at Minimum Support Price (MSP). Apart from that, the Market Intervention Scheme, which reimburses farmers of perishable crops in case of low prices, has also been implemented and governmental agencies have been asked to increase obtaining of produce from these farmers at MSP. The Haryana Government has guaranteed purchase of entire stocks of mustard and wheat and increased the number of markets so that there is one market to every three villages, while also ensuring the measures to contain the spread of Coronavirus in these markets. Telangana has announced a token system for the farmers to go to the mandi and a complete decentralisation in procurement, whereby the purchases will be made through respective Primary Agricultural Cooperative Societies in every village to cut down on the need for transport.

However, a lack of a coordinated policy at the national level is likely to hurt the farmers. The Centre needs to work with the State Government(s) and implement a strategy that enables the farmer to sell their wheat or other crops without having to arrange for transport. The Government can also try and get labourers to come and work if they’re willing to, perhaps taking a page out of Germany’s book, who flew in labourers from countries like Romania and Bulgaria to pick the agricultural produce. The railway network should be utilised effectively to ensure supplies reach where they’re needed and the Haryana and Telangana models should be implemented throughout the country so that the produce reaches the proper channels.

A lack of supply isn’t the problem- the winter crop this season has been bountiful. Matching the supply with the demand and getting it to where it is needed is an urgent problem that needs to be tackled on a war footing. The government needs to be proactive in its approach. While our flour mills cry out for wheat, the Food Corporation of India (FCI)is sitting on 27 million tonnes of wheat from the previous Rabi season, with a record 110 million tonnes estimated to be harvested this season.

While most of us sit in the comfort of our homes, the farmers toil daily to ensure our meals. As we clap for our doctors, this Baisakhi, we should also celebrate the farmers and express our gratitude by not indulging in hoarding of food items, wastage of any kind and use our privilege wisely to impact those who are struggling to meet their ends in such circumstances. This is the time for us to translate our solidarity into action.

Featured Image Credits: The Hindu Business Line

Khush Vardhan Dembla

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After years of lamented echoes for equal rights, certain women still haven’t received acknowledgement, let alone echelon in their fields of work, where they are included only to be left excluded.

Little did we know that the omission of a woman’s efforts would be carried on post her existent life.  This is extended to the point where she would be kept away from being posthumously recorded in the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data of farmer’s suicide. P. Sainath, a veteran Journalist and founder of PARI, People’s Archive of Rural India, at a National Conference of Indian Association for Women’s Studies (IAWS) took a jab at this agency by calling it, “a paradise for women,” where zero accounts of female farmer suicide is reported. He called Punjab and Haryana the “seventh heaven” where logistics seem to have flunk. These states have large numbers of female farmers but no documentation of their Harakiri. He goes on to voice a spine chilling question,”Where do they hide the corpse?” 

In decoding the primary reasons behind the aforementioned exclusion, it’s imperative to understand the methodology which is incorporated in computing the numbers. It’s fraudulent since it houses eight exclusions. Three of the largest amongst them are women, Dalits and Adivasis, with women being the single largest exclusion.

In economic jargon the terminology of ‘imputed cost is used to categorise or rather limit the labour provided by women since they are pushed in the bracket of ‘housewives.’ Although this concept acknowledges the work done by them, it fails to provide for a calculative mechanism to approximate the same. Consequently their contribution doesn’t make it to the calculation of national income. Sainath said, “Post 2014, the sins of omission have been joined by the sins of commission.”

According to the Oxfam Annual Equality Report, 12.5 billion hours of unpaid work is contributed by women and girls every day of each year across the world. This math equates to USD 10.8 trillion annually, which is five times India’s GDP and more than three times the size of global tech giants like Amazon, Apple and Microsoft.

The problematic aspect of the prohibition lies in answering that how are we to solve to the problem of farmer’s suicide as a whole when we are busy ostracising another group from the records? The problematic aspect charges more when women themselves are made to realise that their labour devotion is secondary or relatively unimportant or doesn’t qualify as being worthy enough to get paid. This is a classic example of Italian philosopher Gramsci’s hegemony model, where the subordinate class would concur, willingly to oppression of the upper class with a little negotiation. 

It’s a dissappoinment that the NRCB is the best possible record data to show the menace of farmer’s suicide. Its bereftness when it comes to registering women- speaks volumes about the societal prejudices affecting economy and society. The cause is not inked therefore, it reinforces the perpetuated state of exclusion which therefore demands a dire need to be changed. This starts by eradication of the association of unpaid work with what we classify as a homemaker’s job. Acknowledging the imputed cost and ending of hegemony would in turn put an ending to the discrimination that happens in the agrarian economy and elsewhere in the socioeconomic forum.

References taken from P Sainath’s speech at his valedictorian address at the XVI National Conference of IAWS published by India Today: https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/women-are-the-single-largest-exclusion-in-india-s-farmer-suicides-data-p-sainath-1642141-2020-01-31


Image Credits: PARI Network

Umaima Khanam

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NSUI’s offer to bear expenses, expressed in a press release made by NSUI on 19th June, was made on the occasion of the birthday of Congress President Rahul Gandhi.

The student wing of the Congress, the National Students’ Union of India (NSUI), has decided on a move to pay the first-year fees of the children of late soldiers and farmers who are taking admission in the University of Delhi. The offer, expressed in a press release made by NSUI on 19th June, was made on the birth anniversary of Congress President, Rahul Gandhi.

“NSUI has made a plan to take an important step to serve the families of the Army on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Congress President Rahul Gandhi Ji. NSUI wants to help and provide services to the children of the family of martyred army, security force [sic]. For this, NSUI wants to pay one year fee for the children of martyrs who are going to take admission in Delhi University this year,” the press release stated.

Calling out the “unfortunate and painful” manner in which the army had been “politicized” by “all the parties” in the “past few days,” the press release said that the NSUI was “standing in every way with the families of those soldiers.”

The press release further said, “The National Student’s Union of India [sic] is also standing with the families of the farmers, who had to commit suicide due to non-payment of loans to the banks. NSUI also wants to pay fees of the children of those farmers.”

The process for the same requires students to register on the email [email protected], following which the National Committee of the NSUI will verify the students’ details.

NSUI National President Neeraj Kundan was quoted by ANI as saying that the party will reimburse the students’ fee in case they had already submitted it to the University, while also adding that the programme “reverberated” Rahul Gandhi’s thinking.

When asked about whether the decision was taken in view of the student polls, Kundan was quoted as saying that the organisation wanted to forward it’s leader, Rahul Gandhi’s ideas instead of just cutting a cake on the occasion of his birthday.

DU Beat tried contacting Saimon Farooqui, the National Secretary of NSUI for a comment, but he was not immediately available.

In our view, while no political move can be separated from the idea of seeking votes or at least, acquiring votes as a byproduct of even a desirable move, political parties often act in subtle ways to expand their reach over the masses. While it is not clear what kind of information will be sought by the NSUI for the programme in question here, a reasonable expectation would be that information such as mobile numbers and other contact details will not be used by the party to reach out to the registrants – such that it does not become a political tool. But voting for a party as per one’s own judgement is, of course, a right available to all.

Feature Image Credits: ANI

Prateek Pankaj

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