Modi budget has only entertainment value, farm crisis needs 20-day Parliamentary focus

Jagtar Singh

Chandigarh, February 5: This is from the heart and heart of the man whose body is firmly rooted to the soil and that too in this age of quick bite journalism that also includes the print. P Sainath is the only journalist in the country who has visited about 800 of the farmers and farm workers families whose members have committee suicides during the last 20 years. For him, the so called farm oriented budget of the Narendra Modi government has in effect nothing for the farm sector. This budget has only entertainment value although both Modi and his Finance Minister Arun Jaitley claim to have provided the much awaited solution to end deepening farm crisis.

He called for  20-day special session of the Parliament to discuss only the farm  crisis and its various dimensions.

He was speaking at the two day International Conference on Governance for the Margins with special reference to South Asia held at the Institute for Development and Communication here.

He brought out the contradictions in this government. The BJP promised in its 2014 budget to implement the Swaminathan report on fixing minimum support price for crops ensuring 50 per cent profit over the cost of production. The government backtracked immediately the BJP came into power and submitted a memorandum in the Supreme Court maintaining it would lead to disorientation in the markets. He next quoted RTI reply in which the Modi government took the position that its implementation may prove counterproductive. Then Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh in 2016 denied that any such promise had been made by the BJP. Then the BJP hailed the Madhya Pradesh model, whatever it was. He said now Jaitley had rejected all the earlier positions taken by the Modi government and the BJP in the budget while announcing implementation of the policy to provide such profit margin to the farmers while maintaining  the government has been very sensitive to its promise while at the same time, this formula has already been implemented in case of several crops! He asserted the farm crisis was more than that of fixing MSP. He referred to Maharashtra where,  Sainath said, the procurement centres were being closed as the government was withdrawing out of procurement process. “The crisis in not just that of measure input cost or loss of life. It is crisis of sinking boundary of humanity”.

Sainath proposed that a special session of the Lok Sabha be convened to discuss only the farm crisis. He said it was strange that the Parliament devotes more time on allocation of gas fields to Ambanis  than to the farmers. “We have failed our people as governance is just for the corporates”, he added.

He said India was witnessing the largest ever displacement of people in history in rural areas. “It is crisis of civilisation”. The worst demonitisation by demonitisation were the migrant workers as this so called reform destroyed the money order economy.

He said India would have to go back to the Directive Principles  enshrined in the constitution for solution. “It won’t be easy but it can be done”, he said.

He pointed out that in the 60s and 70s the struggle for justice included even those who did not suffer, and the state played umpire, albeit a bad one, but today it is not even pretending to be an umpire.

He summed up saying no country in the world is without farm subsidies and in US, the government provides subsidy of three dollars a cow.

He dwelt on the Indian model of development that had led to the worst type of inequalities, especially since liberalisation saying even farm credit was benefitting the corporates more than the farmers. Citing the listing of the Forbes magazine in which the number of Indian billionaires have gone from being zero in 1992 to 101 in 2017, he suggested that India has registered the most rapid rate of growth inequality in the world. “Whilst we collected billionaires, look at what happened to the rest of the country,” he said. 

Earlier, Dr. Atul Sood from the Economics Department of JNU delivered the keynote address in which he suggested that governance is management of dissent and of crafting a discourse of development which facilitates status quo and how that this status quo has become unsustainable. Quoting from the World Bank Report of 1997 he felt that even as the state was seen as the centrepiece of all discourse, it was also asked strengthen its role as the facilitator for private enterprise. Prof.  Sood suggested that the indices that measure development have to change from ease of doing business to hunger, from private to public, from the development of skills to the quality of jobs made available. “Efficiency is not the crisis of India but a discussion that centres only on that, camouflages the real issues,” he said. Dr. Pramod Kumar, Director IDC, started the morning by spelling out the parameters of the seminar. He said that crisis is not because out economy is not growing at a faster pace, and there is recession in the economy. It is also not that one-third of all the poor in the world are surviving in India. It is also not that Indian middle class has become a victim of Numbing Effect of Private Prosperity. He said, “It is all this, but more than this, the crises of governance is the manner in which these crises are being resolved.”The first session featured Prof. Lakhwinder Singh from Punjabi University, Mr. Ankur Malhotra from Accenture and Mr. Mithlesh Jayas Mukherji, a researcher from Pondicherry spoke on ‘Innovation for Inclusive Governance.” In the second session Prof. Vijay Khare from Pune and Prof. Ronki Ram from Panjab University Chandigarh spoke on the role of civil society and its interaction with governance. Prof. Debi Chatterjee from Kolkata spoke on issues of governance and dalits. The session also featured scholars from abroad. Prof. Kalinga Tudor Silva from Sri Lanka talked about ethnicity and nationalism as a framework for articulating insecurities of those at the margins. Prof. Mitsuya Dake from Japan argued for an international climate of peace as being conducive to constructive development and Prof. Satoko C. Nakane also from Japan, discussed issues related to governance and child welfare in India.


Jagtar Singh


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