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Trying times for agrarian sector

Trying times for agrarian sector
It has been more than a month since 170 farmers from Tamil Nadu went on a protest at the Jantar Mantar complex in the national capital against the state's apathy in dealing with their desperate plight. Another year of drought has brought more suffering for the farmers of the state. In a bid to draw media attention throughout the 41-day protest, agitating farmers indulged in some deeply saddening gestures of desperation. Some farmers had brandished human skulls, walked naked on the roads of Delhi and even ate rats in full public view. The protesters demanded a farm loan waiver, saying they are not in a situation to repay their debts because of severe droughts. Earlier this year, the Tamil Nadu government declared all 32 districts in the state as drought-affected, besides seeking a sum of nearly Rs 40,000 crore from the Centre to alleviate farm distress, following the worst drought in 140 years. With farm income dwindling, and the debt trap making lives of farmers very difficult, governments are once again coming under pressure to waive loans. On Monday, they suspended their protests after Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswamy promised to take care of their problems. What forced his hand is perhaps their decision last Friday to drink their urine. In fact, the protesting farmers had threatened to eat their faeces if authorities did not respond soon enough. These protests reflect the dire state of affairs in the state's agricultural sector. It is, however, imperative to note that this terrible state of affairs is not limited to Tamil Nadu. Many, including Karnataka, Haryana, and Punjab, among others are suffering from the same.

Earlier this year, the Tamil Nadu government declared all 32 districts in the state as drought-affected, besides seeking a sum of nearly Rs 40,000 crore from the Centre to alleviate farm distress, following the worst drought in 140 years. With farm income dwindling, and the debt trap making lives of farmers very difficult, governments are once again coming under pressure to waive loans. On Monday, they suspended their protests after Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswamy promised to take care of their problems. What forced his hand is perhaps their decision last Friday to drink their urine. In fact, the protesting farmers had threatened to eat their faeces if authorities did not respond soon enough. These protests reflect the dire state of affairs in the state's agricultural sector. It is, however, imperative to note that this terrible state of affairs is not limited to Tamil Nadu. Many, including Karnataka, Haryana, and Punjab, among others are suffering from the same.

Many, including Karnataka, Haryana, and Punjab, among others are suffering from the same.
For the second year in a row, the monsoons have failed in Tamil Nadu. In January, the State government announced the release of a 2000-crore financial package for drought relief, following the declaration of state-wide drought. Earlier this month, the Centre approved nearly Rs 3000 crore from the National Disaster Relief Fund for drought relief, among other related concerns, in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Following this announcement, the Madras High Court went beyond its brief and directed the State government waive all farm loans issued by nationalised and cooperative banks and ensure that no punitive action or loan recovery is initiated against them. In the order, the court made no attempt to differentiate between those farmers with large or small land holdings, and in fact argued that this distinction was "arbitrary". Until then, the government had only written off loans of farmers with plots of less than five acres. Last August the State government waived off the loans of small and marginal farmers amounting to Rs 5,780 crore taken from cooperative banks before March 31, 2016. These measures have done seemingly little to alleviate their suffering. Over the past six months, an estimated 150 farmers have committed suicide in the state. What's worse, one minister in the Tamil Nadu government, in an apparent bid to grab media attention, acted on an unusual idea of setting afloat Rs 10 lakh worth of

In the order, the court made no attempt to differentiate between those farmers with large or small land holdings, and in fact argued that this distinction was "arbitrary". Until then, the government had only written off loans of farmers with plots of less than five acres. Last August the State government waived off the loans of small and marginal farmers amounting to Rs 5,780 crore taken from cooperative banks before March 31, 2016. These measures have done seemingly little to alleviate their suffering. Over the past six months, an estimated 150 farmers have committed suicide in the state. What's worse, one minister in the Tamil Nadu government, in an apparent bid to grab media attention, acted on an unusual idea of setting afloat Rs 10 lakh worth of thermocol taped together on the Vaigai dam reservoir to prevent the water from evaporating. The experiment failed rather miserably as the sheets were blown away by strong winds. Some observers had poignantly noted that the failed test represented the dissipation of hope among those suffering and the government's dwindling credibility. Unfortunately, the state government has done little to introduce long-term water conservation measures like getting rid of massive structures encroaching on water bodies and desilting lakes and dams. Making things worse is the political instability in the state following the death of former chief minister Jayalalithaa in December. Since her passing, the ruling AIADMK has found itself ripped apart by warring factions. These columns have dealt with these squabbles in detail, but in the latest round, there is talk of a merger between the two factions—one led by the Chief Minister and the other by O Panneerselvam. With former aide to Jayalalithaa, VK Sasikala, in jail, after the apex court convicted her in a disproportionate assets case, and her nephew TTV Dhinakaran caught in the crosshairs of the Delhi Police on bribery charges, both factions have decided to arrive at some common ground. For months as the rival groups merrily engaged in their games, governance in Tamil Nadu was at a standstill. It's hard not to empathise with these desperate farmers, who have to deal with a seemingly unresponsive government. It's not as if the Centre has covered itself in any real glory. The agitating farmers had sought an audience with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which his office refused. They soon met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley but received no assurances. The Centre has also refused to commit on doubling the minimum support prices in a bid to deal with the rising cost of fertilisers and other farm inputs. Distressed farmers in the Cauvery delta are, meanwhile, awaiting a resolution on a potential water sharing agreement with Karnataka. Earlier this year, the Karnataka government refused to abide by the Supreme Court's orders to release Tamil Nadu's share of water from the Cauvery River. Evidently, the Centre has decided to exercise caution in this matter, since it is scared to upset the BJP's prospects in the next Karnataka Assembly elections. As argued earlier, this is not a problem restricted to Tamil Nadu. Even the neighbouring Karnataka is suffering from a severe water shortage crisis and drought. Prime Minister Narendra Modi once spoke of wanting to double farm income 2022 by transforming Indian agriculture. Despite some steps taken to this effect, the dominant political discourse continues to revolve around farm loan waivers. For a sector which engages 47% of the workforce, any mention of "

The experiment failed rather miserably as the sheets were blown away by strong winds. Some observers had poignantly noted that the failed test represented the dissipation of hope among those suffering and the government's dwindling credibility. Unfortunately, the state government has done little to introduce long-term water conservation measures like getting rid of massive structures encroaching on water bodies and desilting lakes and dams. Making things worse is the political instability in the state following the death of former chief minister Jayalalithaa in December. Since her passing, the ruling AIADMK has found itself ripped apart by warring factions. These columns have dealt with these squabbles in detail, but in the latest round, there is talk of a merger between the two factions—one led by the Chief Minister and the other by O Panneerselvam. With former aide to Jayalalithaa, VK Sasikala, in jail, after the apex court convicted her in a disproportionate assets case, and her nephew TTV Dhinakaran caught in the crosshairs of the Delhi Police on bribery charges, both factions have decided to arrive at some common ground. For months as the rival groups merrily engaged in their games, governance in Tamil Nadu was at a standstill. It's hard not to empathise with these desperate farmers, who have to deal with a seemingly unresponsive government. It's not as if the Centre has covered itself in any real glory. The agitating farmers had sought an audience with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which his office refused. They soon met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley but received no assurances. The Centre has also refused to commit on doubling the minimum support prices in a bid to deal with the rising cost of fertilisers and other farm inputs. Distressed farmers in the Cauvery delta are, meanwhile, awaiting a resolution on a potential water sharing agreement with Karnataka. Earlier this year, the Karnataka government refused to abide by the Supreme Court's orders to release Tamil Nadu's share of water from the Cauvery River. Evidently, the Centre has decided to exercise caution in this matter, since it is scared to upset the BJP's prospects in the next Karnataka Assembly elections. As argued earlier, this is not a problem restricted to Tamil Nadu. Even the neighbouring Karnataka is suffering from a severe water shortage crisis and drought. Prime Minister Narendra Modi once spoke of wanting to double farm income 2022 by transforming Indian agriculture. Despite some steps taken to this effect, the dominant political discourse continues to revolve around farm loan waivers. For a sector which engages 47% of the workforce, any mention of "

These columns have dealt with these squabbles in detail, but in the latest round, there is talk of a merger between the two factions—one led by the Chief Minister and the other by O Panneerselvam. With former aide to Jayalalithaa, VK Sasikala, in jail, after the apex court convicted her in a disproportionate assets case, and her nephew TTV Dhinakaran caught in the crosshairs of the Delhi Police on bribery charges, both factions have decided to arrive at some common ground. For months as the rival groups merrily engaged in their games, governance in Tamil Nadu was at a standstill. It's hard not to empathise with these desperate farmers, who have to deal with a seemingly unresponsive government. It's not as if the Centre has covered itself in any real glory. The agitating farmers had sought an audience with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which his office refused. They soon met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley but received no assurances. The Centre has also refused to commit on doubling the minimum support prices in a bid to deal with the rising cost of fertilisers and other farm inputs. Distressed farmers in the Cauvery delta are, meanwhile, awaiting a resolution on a potential water sharing agreement with Karnataka. Earlier this year, the Karnataka government refused to abide by the Supreme Court's orders to release Tamil Nadu's share of water from the Cauvery River. Evidently, the Centre has decided to exercise caution in this matter, since it is scared to upset the BJP's prospects in the next Karnataka Assembly elections. As argued earlier, this is not a problem restricted to Tamil Nadu. Even the neighbouring Karnataka is suffering from a severe water shortage crisis and drought. Prime Minister Narendra Modi once spoke of wanting to double farm income 2022 by transforming Indian agriculture. Despite some steps taken to this effect, the dominant political discourse continues to revolve around farm loan waivers. For a sector which engages 47% of the workforce, any mention of "

They soon met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley but received no assurances. The Centre has also refused to commit on doubling the minimum support prices in a bid to deal with the rising cost of fertilisers and other farm inputs. Distressed farmers in the Cauvery delta are, meanwhile, awaiting a resolution on a potential water sharing agreement with Karnataka. Earlier this year, the Karnataka government refused to abide by the Supreme Court's orders to release Tamil Nadu's share of water from the Cauvery River. Evidently, the Centre has decided to exercise caution in this matter, since it is scared to upset the BJP's prospects in the next Karnataka Assembly elections. As argued earlier, this is not a problem restricted to Tamil Nadu. Even the neighbouring Karnataka is suffering from a severe water shortage crisis and drought. Prime Minister Narendra Modi once spoke of wanting to double farm income 2022 by transforming Indian agriculture. Despite some steps taken to this effect, the dominant political discourse continues to revolve around farm loan waivers. For a sector which engages 47% of the workforce, any mention of "sabka saath, sabka vikas" holds credibility if there is any development in the agricultural sector. Reports indicate that in the first three years of the current NDA government, agri-GDP grew by just 1.7% per year. This figure is less than half of the 3.6% growth that this sector saw during the last three years of the UPA government. One can attribute the Centre's poor performance to forces beyond their control—primarily the droughts in 2014 and 2015, followed by a less than normal monsoon season in 2016. Nonetheless, the Modi government has taken some positive steps and introduced significant reforms in the sector. Besides working on existing schemes, the Centre has launched the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (aimed at improving the state of irrigation), Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (crop insurance), and the e-National Agriculture Market (e-NAM), which seeks to link 585 regulated agro-markets across the country. Despite desirable steps, concerns related to the implementation of these schemes remain unaddressed. "But all these flagship programmes are dwarfed when one looks at the money being spent on food and fertiliser subsidies, which exceeds Rs 3,00,000 crore (including arrears) in 2017. One had hoped that the Modi government would take bold decisions to streamline these by moving towards Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) to beneficiaries' accounts. The progress on this front has been tardy, and one doubts whether any bold reforms are coming soon," writes well-known Indian agriculture expert, Ashok Gulati, in a recent column. Times are indeed hard, and our political class must step up to the plate.
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