September 13, 2020

AIKS Questions BJP Govt Claims on Agriculture

IN a statement issued on September 3, the All India Kisan Sabha noted that the data released by the BJP government recently has made clear the devastation caused by the unplanned and draconian lockdown implemented in the last week of March. Even after the misery caused by the lockdown is clear to all, the government is in a denial mode and unwilling to provide any substantive relief to farmers and working people. As a result, farmers faced an unprecedented level of hurdles in harvesting and selling the crops.

As per data from the Agmarknet database, in comparison with last year, total value of produce sold between April and June is 31 per cent lower for cereals, 45 per cent lower for pulses, 37 per cent lower for oilseeds, 32 per cent lower for fruits, and 38 per cent lower for vegetables. Low market surplus was a result of both a fall in quantity of market arrivals and a fall in farm gate prices of most crops. A vast majority of farmers were forced to sell their produce at prices significantly below the minimum support price. Many farmers across the country were forced to abandon their perishable crops because of inability to sell them. Prices of milk fell drastically and dairy farmers were forced to destroy milk because of flow prices.

Along with Covid and the lockdown, farmers across the country also faced several natural disasters. About 60 per cent of the geographical area of the country had unseasonal rains and hailstorms. Cyclone Amphan caused widespread destruction of crops in Eastern India. On the other hand, in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, widespread crop damages were caused by the desert locusts.

It is a travesty that, in a complete disregard of these facts, the government has made a wild claim that agricultural GDP grew in the first quarter at 3.4 per cent, 0.4 percentage points more than the growth in same period last year. The press note issued by the ministry of statistics and programme implementation states that "the first quarter estimates are based on agricultural production during Rabi season of 2019-20 (which ended in June 2020) obtained from the department of agriculture, cooperation & farmers’ welfare; estimates of production, mainly in the form of production targets for milk, egg, meat and wool for livestock sector from the department of animal husbandry & dairying and fish production data from the department of fisheries." Given that the country had to face a draconian lockdown which caused an unprecedented economic devastation, it is ridiculous that the government bases its early estimates of GDP on "production targets" and has chosen to not take into account widespread losses suffered by farmers across the country.

It is clear that, while the government had to accept the economic devastation caused in other sectors, it has chosen to do window dressing of GDP estimates in agriculture. Farmers are not going to be fooled by such falsehoods. Along with the working class, the peasants have decided to intensify the struggle against this anti-people government. We will not rest until the government is forced to accept accountability for its deeds as well as meet genuine demands.