Modi’s Report Card from Haryana
PUNJAB and Haryana were the poster-twins of the Green Revolution. The states were in the forefront of the transformation of India from a perpetually food deficit “Ship-To-Mouth” existence to a situation of food self-sufficiency. They were showcased as the land of prosperity and the farmers were credited with feeding the hungry millions through their toil and resilience. The farmers soon came to epitomise the “Annadata” or provider of food security and their penchant for joining the armed forces also led to the much romanticised slogan of “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan”. The Green Revolution and the victory in the Indo-Pak War of 1965 was the specific context in which the slogan was coined by the then prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri. Nothing exposes the hollowness of the slogan more than the plight of the farmers, many of whom are retired soldiers today.
A team of the All India Kisan Sabha led by general secretary Hannan Mollah including joint secretaries NK Shukla and Vijoo Krishnan as well as the president and secretary of Haryana Kisan Sabha, Master Sher Singh and Harpal Singh respectively visited parts of Haryana on May 13-14, 2015. CPI(M) state secretary, Surender Singh, Kisan leaders Preet Singh, Shraddanand Solanki, Pradip, Balwan Singh and Naresh Kumar also accompanied the team. The team witnessed a shocking scenario of extreme agrarian distress in the state. The last one month had witnessed suicides by more than sixty farmers and death of many including young farmers who died of heart-break on seeing the unbearable sight of their crops being destroyed by unseasonal rains and hailstorm. The insensitive manner of handling of the unprecedented crisis by the central and state governments both under the BJP has only further pushed them into an abyss. It is relevant here to look into the twelve cases of death of farmers in the regions visited by the team and try to understand the specific reasons for such an unprecedented surge in farm suicides.
FORGOTTEN PROMISES AND
BETRAYAL OF A DEMAGOGUE
But for the absence of land reforms the BJP’s election manifesto and Narendra Modi’s speeches during the campaign seemed like having virtually lifted out of the charter of demands of the All India Kisan Sabha. It was literally an enlisting of the “Mann Ki Baat”/wish list of the farmers of India. It claimed that the BJP government would usher in Achhe Din and
· Put an end to farm suicides.
· Take steps to enhance profitability in agriculture by ensuring minimum of 50% profits over cost of production.
· Increase public investment in agriculture and rural development.
· Provide cheaper agricultural inputs and credit.
· Implement farm insurance scheme to take care of crop loss due to natural calamities, strengthen and expand rural credit facilities.
· Link MGNREGA to agriculture, expand and strengthen it.
· Implement a National Land Use Policy for scientific acquisition of non-cultivable land and its development. Protect interests of farmers and food production goals of the country.
· Welfare measure for farmers above 60 years, small and marginal farmers and farm labour.
· Expand irrigation facilities.
· Institute a Price Stabilisation Fund to protect farmers from volatile world market prices.
The BJP propaganda blitzkrieg and the Narendra Modi’s high voltage campaign led to farmers and agricultural workers voting for the BJP in many parts of India in the belief that they would actually implement their promises. What they have received in return so far is only the empty “Mann Ki Baat” of the prime minister. On coming to power with a majority, the prime minister and the BJP have been struck by amnesia and have forgotten these promises. The BJP government is working hard to ensure diametrically opposed policies are implemented that will pauperise and dispossess the peasantry. The neo-liberal economic policies are being implemented with a vengeance and at a far greater pace than during the Congress-led UPA rule.
Each one of these promises has been broken. Public investment in agriculture and rural development has been drastically curtailed, agricultural credit is inaccessible and usurious money lenders are looting the farmers unchecked, input costs are skyrocketing, crop prices and minimum support prices are unremunerative and do not even cover the costs of production, procurement mechanism is being fast dismantled and private players allowed to exploit distressed farmers. The Modi-led government has also issued an order stating that Food Corporation of India will not procure from states giving bonus over and above MSP to farmers and MGNREGA has been scaled down drastically. The Land Acquisition Ordinance is promoting land grab at the expense of the farmers to facilitate corporate profiteering. In such a dismal state of affairs, the unseasonal rains and hailstorm followed by extremely insensitive government handling has only pushed farmers into dire straits.
When we look into the cases of deaths arising of farm distress we can understand how these policies had cumulatively acted along with the total apathy in dealing with the unprecedented crop losses in the unseasonal rains and hailstorm to literally push these farmers to kill themselves. In that sense the government and the policy makers pursuing neo-liberal economic policies are culpable of homicide. Rather than mitigate their suffering, provide effective compensation and take emergency confidence building measures the Haryana BJP minister for agriculture has made extremely insensitive comments and described the farmers committing suicide as “cowards” and “criminals”. The union agriculture minister claimed in parliament that not a single farmer had committed suicide in Haryana. The government is continuing in this criminal denial mode and refusing to accept the truth.
GREEN REVOLUTION HUB
NOW A HUB OF FARM SUICIDES
The team first visited the Teori Village in Ganaur Tehsil of Sonepat district. The distraught family of Rajesh who hanged himself on the May Day at the age of 32 years explained to the team the reasons that drove him to this extreme act. He owned 5 acres of land and had leased in 17.5 acres paying an exorbitant rent of Rs 45,000/Acre. Both crops of paddy and wheat suffered extensive damage in the unseasonal rains and hailstorm. Basmati which fetched Rs 6000/Qtl last year only received Rs 1600/Qtl this year. It is to be noted that while the farmers are getting pittance for their toil, investment companies are making huge profits exploiting their distress. A kilogram of the popular basmati rice brand India Gate costs around Rs 200. He had taken Rs 4.82 lakhs from Kotak Mahindra Bank at 14 percent rate of interest in addition to the lease amount from private money lenders at 24 percent rate of interest. He leaves behind four children- three girls and a boy all aged below six years and his wife as well as aged parents and a younger brother.
The next visit was in the same village where Kuldip Singh aged just 25 years had hanged himself unable to bear the loss of his entire wheat and paddy crop and the refusal of the patwari to record the losses. He owned merely four bighas of land and had leased in 16 acres of land at Rs 46,000/acre. He had taken the loan from private money lenders at 24 percent rate of interest. His octogenarian grandmother Rajwati Devi claimed that the money lenders were harassing him and the government inaction led him to commit suicide. He had been denied even the government announced compensation of Rs 11,800/acre. He had leased in land at Rs 46,000/acre, other costs of production when accounted for will be much more. Yet it is this meagre amount given as compensation to few handful of farmers that Narendra Modi has been trumpeting as the highest ever compensation. The team also heard instances of farmers being given cheques for compensation of Rs 5/acre, Rs 63/acre and Rs 200/acre in different parts of the state.
The Kisan Sabha team then visited the nearby Katwal Village in Gohana Tehsil of Sonepat district. Balwan Singh aged 59 years had died of a heart attack on April 8, 2015 unable to bear the loss of his standing crop. He owned three acres and had leased in eight acres more at the rate of Rs 30,000/acre. He leaves behind his wife, three sons and three daughters. The government does not consider such deaths as arising out of farm distress and there is no compensation to the affected families. The pressure from the money lenders continues unabated and the family members continue to be threatened.
In Rewara village of Gohana tehsil in Sonepat district the team found that Yudhvir aged 42 years had committed suicide on April 17, 2015 by consuming pesticide in his field. The patwari and other government officials refused to make an assessment of the extensive damage to his wheat crop. He owned 2.5 acres and had leased in three acres at the rent of Rs 35,000/acre. He leaves behind his wife, two daughters, a son and aged parents. Yudhvir’s brother Jagvir is an army jawan who is now left to look after this family in distress. The political leadership and the “nationalists” who lose no opportunity to use the slogan of “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan” had not found time till date to visit the family. In all, 12 suicides were reported in Sonepat district.
In Jind district, the Kisan Sabha team visited Pindara village. Rajesh aged just 33 years had hanged himself on April 28, 2015. He owned two acres and had leased in two acres at a rent of Rs 38,000/acre. The unseasonal rains and hailstorm had totally destroyed the standing wheat crop and in the last season cotton also was totally destroyed. He had borrowed Rs 5 lakh from private money lenders at 24 percent rate of interest and they were pressurising him to pay back the loan. Although the patwari had made a survey of losses no help was forthcoming from the BJP government. He leaves behind his wife and three girl children who are staring at a bleak future. Two other suicides were reported in Jind district.
In Rohtak district, the AIKS team first visited Ajhaib Village in Meham tehsil. Jaikumar aged 33 years had died of heart attack due to the trauma of seeing his entire crop destroyed in the rains and hailstorm. He owned four acres and leased in six acres at Rs 22,000/acre. The paddy crop in the last season had suffered losses and production was below normal. The basmati price also had fallen drastically and the amount invested into cultivation could not be regained. Wheat crop this season was totally destroyed in the rain and hailstorm. He leaves behind his wife Manju Bala, two daughters and a son. The district collector had said that there were 100 percent losses and there was no need for any assessment in the district but very few received compensation. The team was also informed of another suicide by Satyender Singh who had leased in 20 acres at Rs 6 lakh and there was total loss of crops. He had received a compensation of merely Rs11,800/acre.
In Sisar Khas village of Meham tehsil in Rohtak district the team met the family of Sandeep who died of a heart attack on April 12 at the age of 27 years. He had taken three acres on lease at Rs 25,000/acre in addition to the 10 acres owned by his family. He had taken a loan of Rs 6 lakhs from the Oriental Bank of Commerce. The entire cotton, mustard and wheat crop was destroyed and no government help was extended to overcome the situation. His family explained that this scenario and the pressure of having to repay loans were responsible for his death. He leaves behind his wife Monika and a six month old daughter in addition to his aged parents.
The same village saw 27 year old Manish commit suicide by hanging on May 5, 2015 as the crop on his 2.5 acres of land was totally destroyed. He had taken loan of Rs 1 lakh from Agricultural Cooperative and Kisan Credit Card. He also had taken inputs from traders worth 1 lakh which had to be repaid with 24 percent rate of interest and Rs 3 lakh from Oriental Bank of Commerce. His brother and mother are both disabled and unable to work. He was the main earner in the family. His father Azad Singh used to work under MGNREGA but there is no regular work and it has further reduced after the BJP government took over, he claimed.
Balwant Singh aged 65 years who owned five acres had leased in 10 acres at Rs 35,000/acre. He had taken Rs 35 lakh on loan from private money lenders at 24 percent rate of interest in addition to Rs 50,000 from Cooperative Bank. He was yet to receive last year’s arrears of paddy and wheat of which 75 percent was still due. To add to his woes this year’s unseasonal rains and hailstorm had devastated his entire crop awaiting harvest. He died of a heart attack in his field on April 3, 2015. He did not count on records of the government for any compensation to the family.
Umra village in Hansi tehsil of Hissar district – Balwan Singh, 35 years and Om Prakash, 42 years died when lightning struck as they were together guarding their fields from stray cattle. They owned an acre each and had leased in additional five acres on a rent of Rs10,000/acre. The rents were relatively lower in this region due to paucity of water. The tehsildar and SDM visited and promised a compensation of Rs 2 lakh each for the crop loss on their land through the Haryana Marketing Board. Nothing has reached their families yet. While death by snake-bite is compensated for, there is no provision for compensation to families for death by lightning.
In Bhiwani district the AIKS team visited Paju village in Loharu tehsil and another village Dinod in Bhiwani tehsil. In Paju, Surender aged 50 years had committed suicide by jumping into a well as the entire mustard crop was destroyed. He owned five acres and had leased in two acres at Rs15,000/acre. The last season had seen his entire crop being destroyed due to drought-like conditions. Although he ran from pillar to post, even the meagre Rs 4,000/acre as drought relief was not given. The crop loss in this year’s rains further caused acute distress. He had borrowed Rs Three lakh from the Sarva Haryana Gramin Bank and another 1.5 lakh from money lenders. He was forced under such circumstances to commit suicide. He leaves behind his wife and two children, the elder of who is disabled. The same village had reported another suicide too.
In Dinod village Madan aged around 32 years born in a dalit family had committed suicide unable to bear the torture of money lenders who threatened and beat him up. He had taken 11 acres as a sharecropper and was forced to give 75 percent of the produce to the land owner and retain only the remaining 25 percent. The entire crop was destroyed. He had borrowed Rs 48,000 from local people at 120 percent rate of interest. He had also paid back Rs 57,500 in the last six months to them. He named three people in a note written on the temple wall where he committed suicide. None of them have been arrested. His wife Suman, a 13-year old daughter and 11 year old son are hoping against hope that the government will come to their rescue. No government official or elected representative had visited their house as yet.
STRUGGLE IS THE
The Kisan Sabha has been organising the peasantry to resist neo-liberal policies and overcome the dismal situation through a combination of alternatives and struggles. Massive protests were lined across all the districts that the team visited despite inclement weather. A massive state-wide protest was held on May 19, 2015. Hannan Mollah, NK Shukla, Harpal Singh and others addressing the protests warned of further intensification of struggles and exhorted the peasantry to mobilise themselves for long-drawn struggles and pledge to sacrifice their lives on the path of struggles rather than commit suicide. The double speak of the BJP government and its anti-farmer character was exposed. Every village had people gathering in large numbers to share their experiences with the Kisan Sabha team. Meetings were held in the courtyards of houses with faded flags of the BJP. Many of them were the foot-soldiers of the BJP till recently. They had been swayed by the tall promises by the BJP and Narendra Modi. Today they had gathered to vent their anger at the betrayal and pledge to be a part of militant struggles against the BJP governments in the state and centre. Even as Modi is proclaiming himself to be the most popular Indian prime minister abroad he is unwelcome in the villages of Haryana. This anger in coming days shall unleash waves of protests.