Veteran Journalist and Founder-Editor of the People’s Archive of Rural India, P Sainath talked on the current agrarian crisis. He attributed the current crisis to macro-economic policies set in motion 25 years ago.
Sainath gave an interview to journalist Anuradha Sen Gupta (consulting editor at CNN, News18), in which he talked about the major issues and the possible solutions for them.
Here are Sainath’s views taken out of the interview:
Reaction of Parliament on the crisis:
“The reaction improves as elections draw closer. If you just look at who your parliament represents today, if you look at the Association for Democratic Reforms data - we introduced the election affidavit where you give a self-assessment of your worth, in 2004.
These are the people who are going to represent some of the poorest human beings on earth. They're going to represent much better the class forces that sponsored them, that drove them into power.
So you have all the time in the world to get the GST Bill passed. The Swaminathan Commision report and that is the mantra on every farmer's lips, has lain 14 years in Parliament without an hour’s dedicated discussion. The first of the Swaminathan Commision reports that were submitted, there are 5, in December 2004 and the last in 2006. 14 years, you couldn't find one hour to discuss it!
I think the dominant sections of the political class have arrived on some sort of a consensus twenty-five years ago on the direction they will move the country in, and in that direction, agriculture is the worst sufferer. Farming or the farming communities and agricultural labourers are the worst sufferers because they rank very low on the priorities of that direction of economic policy.”
No data on Farmers’ suicides:
“In the last 10-15 years, successive governments have dealt with serious blows to data and data sources in this country. I will not say that it was only this government, that would not be true.
However, this government has raised the level and expanded the scale of assault on data and data sources in this country exponentially.
Why do you not have data for two years? That was a conscious policy decision.
The government stopped the NCRB from publishing its report from 2016 onwards, that's why you don't have data. They have collected the data for 2016 but only let out little driblets of that in Parliament as provisional data. You cannot use provisional data along with the rest of it.
In 2014 they changed the parameters so completely, changed the definitions of categories so completely: making data from 2014 onwards non-compatible with the earlier nineteen years for which data existed.
Second, even the numbers were so embarrassing they shut down the NCRB.
Underestimated Number of Suicides by farmers:
“According to the last data that we have, is over three lakh people killed due to farmer suicides up to 2015. It is a serious underestimate.
Many of the young girls committing suicide, which we have documented, these suicides get in as student suicides. There are 15 years old, 16 years old, and are called student suicides because they were students. But what was the real reason for their suicide?
A peasant couple has a son and a daughter in High School or College, where they're paying fees. When the agrarian crisis bankrupts them they have to remove one. Who did they remove? They remove the girl. More often than not the girl is a far better student than the boy, but they remove her. When they remove her, we've come across cases after cases of that girl, killing herself. Now she didn't kill herself because she failed in exams, but it'll be listed as a student suicide because she was a student. There are lakhs of women farmers in Haryana and Punjab.
Year after year, Haryana and Punjab record zero women farmer’s suicides. But you look at the housewives column that is exploding because you've listed a number of farm girls as housewives. A lot of people don't know who farmers in the country are. “