Monthly Archives: May 2014

After incidents of suicides, farmers organizations preparing for a long drawn battle

May 21, 2014, 10.59PM IST TNN[ Yudhvir Rana ]

AMRITSAR: The sudden rise in cases of farmers ending their lives due to increased indebtedness especially in Malwa region of Punjab have made the farmers organizations to swing into action and aggressively take up the issue for the cause of Punjabi farmers who have made the state granary of nation.

They are also unhappy with the government’s schemes of granting a compensation of Rs 2 lakh to the kin of farmer committing suicide due to financial constraint and many of them want government to withdraw the free electricity facility and recovering income tax from rich agriculturists. The farmers unions are also planning a long drawn battle in support of their demands .

General secretary , BKU, Ekta (Ugrahan) Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan told TOI on Wednesday “Rs 2 lakh is too meager of help to family member of a farmer who commits suicide due to financial constraints, it is nothing but an eye wash”.

He cited one of the major reason for farmers ending their life as their humiliation on hands of bank employees and money lenders.

“Suicides will never end by arresting farmers, auctioning their properties and humiliating them in public, it has to be stopped immediately as the first preventive measure ” he observed.

Giving reference to the Punjab Land Reforms Act, 197 under which a family unit (husband, wife, and children) couldn’t own more than 17.5 acres of fertile agricultural land ,he said according to official figures there was around 17 lakh acre of surplus land.

“This land should be distributed among land less farmers and farm labourers” he said.

He said BKU(Ugrahan) also favored collecting income tax from the rich agriculturists , withdrawing free electricity facility and subsidies from farm inputs from them.

Farmer leader and general secretary, Border Area Sangarash Committee, Rattan Singh Randhawa said at least 10 farmers in districts of Bathinda, Sangrur, Barnala, Mansa have committed suicide between April 10 to May 10 which was an alarming figure.

The number of farmers suicides however couldn’t’ be officially confirmed .

When asked about this, Randhawa alleged that government would always downplay the issue and would never give the true picture.

“The figure is from the surveys done by farmer’s organizations as well as from media reports “.

He said in many cases the family members of farmers who commit suicides didn’t even report the incident due to social issues. On the other hand secretary, agriculture department, KS Pannu said according to a survey conducted by Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana and Punjabi University, Patiala 4800 farmers had committed suicides between 2000 to 2011.

He informed that a compensation of Rs 2 lakh each had already been released.

He informed that a policy for framing a scheme regarding financial assistance and other relief to farmers ending their life due to indebtedness would be ready in three months time, state president Zamhauri Kissan Union Satnam Singh Ajnala opined that unremunerative prices of crops, bank interests and high input cost were some of the reasons behind farmers suicides in recent past .

“Government has always tried to wash their hands off the suicides despite the fact that 22000 farmers have killed themselves in past 7 years” he said.

Following farmers suicides we have decided to hold four conferences in the state to bring up the issue and make the issue as their frontal demand.

He also opined that farmers should be given interest free loans. Gurbachan Singh Chabba of Kissan Sangarash Committee blamed on government for ignoring the farm sector in the state.

The government had till date not implemented the recommendations of Swaminathan commission made in 2006, “Farmers are reeling under debt due to high input cost with respect to almost stagnant MRP” he said adding that they would hold meeting with like minded bodies to begin a state wide agitation for the larger interest of farming community of the state.

“We can’t allow farmers to end their lives like this” added he. Learned sources seeking anonymity told that besides indebtedness the other reasons behind suicide of farmers were rampant drug addiction in their families and cancer disease.

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Abandoned Angry People

In Delhi AAP stands for Aam Admi Party. In Punjab, where AAP’s four electoral victories shocked both the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Congress, AAP stands for Abandoned Angry People. AAP did well in Punjab’s Malwa region because the four districts of Patiala, Sangrur, Faridkot and Fatehgarh Sahib because the Malwa region has the maximum number of Angry and Abandoned People – farmers and farm labourers engaged in a back-to-the-wall struggle to survive, widows and orphans of those same farmers and farm labourers whom the struggle defeated.

Over the past four decades the Akalis (led by Prakash Singh Badal four times and Surjit Barnala once) were at the helm of affairs for 17 years; in this same period, the Congress ruled for 18 years. These governments could not bring themselves to admit the rapidly deteriorating condition of the villages – it would have meant giving the lie to the oft-trumpeted declaration that ‘prosperous’ Punjab was India’s agricultural showcase.

In these 40-plus years, these people have been crying out to the willfully blind and stone-deaf state government. Did even a single leader heed their distress? Amarinder at least set up the Farmers’ Commission to go into the problem and recommend ameliorative measures. Perhaps because of this and the abrogation of the river-waters treaty he fell from favour with his own party.

AAP articulated the misery of the rural people and that struck a chord with the voters. The very fact that AAP’s votes came from the Malwa belt shows that addressing the issue of agrarian crisis – not in theory but as reflected in the actual lives of people – has carried the party to victory. AAP should learn this lesson and apply it on an all-India basis if they want popular support to swell.