March 31, 2024

Towards the Lok Sabha Election: Annadatas Cheated! Defeat BJP!!

Enable GingerCannot connect to Ginger Check your internet connection
or reload the browser
Disable in this text fieldRephraseRephrase current sentence

PERHAPS no other section in India has been more thoroughly cheated and short-changed by the Narendra Modi-led BJP-RSS regime than the crores of farmers and agricultural workers, who are truly the ‘annadatas’ of our country. Let us consider these two sections separately.


Some of the tall promises made by the Modi government to farmers have been as follows: Farmer incomes will be doubled; minimum support price (MSP) has been given as per the Swaminathan Commission recommendation, and the MSP of crops has been increased; the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) has made a big impact in crop insurance and helped farmers in natural calamities; the Modi government has implemented several loan waiver schemes for farmers; and the land acquisition policy in rural areas is pro-people.


In recent years, the claim of doubling of farmers’ incomes has disappeared from government documents and the media! The Government's Situation Assessment Surveys of 2011-12 and 2018-19 show that the monthly income of agricultural households from ‘cultivation’ fell in real terms from Rs 2,855 to Rs 2,816 (i.e., by 1.4 per cent). So much for doubling of farm incomes!

Modi promised in his 2014 campaign that he would implement the Swaminathan Commission recommendations i.e., MSP will be fixed 50 per cent higher than the C2 cost of production (the sum of paid out costs, imputed value of family labour, interest on the value of owned capital assets, rent paid for leased-in land and the rental value of owned land). However, less than a year after being elected, in February 2015, the BJP regime submitted an affidavit before the Supreme Court that it could not fulfil this commitment because it would “distort the market”.   

In fact, the Modi government cheated farmers by fixing MSPs at 50 per cent higher than the A2+FL cost of production, where interest on the value of owned capital assets, rent paid for leased-in land and the rental value of owned land are excluded. Due to such a wrong method, farmers have been deprived of Rs 500-600 per quintal in the 23 crops for which MSPs are announced.

As far as MSPs are concerned, they have been rising at a much slower rate under the Narendra Modi government compared to earlier periods. Between 2003-04 and 2012-13, MSPs of the major food grain crops rose by an average of 8-9 per cent per year. But between 2013-14 and 2023-24, MSPs of the major food grain crops rose by just about 5 per cent per year. This happened when input prices of seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, diesel, power, and water were rising rapidly.

See the contrast with the LDF state government of Kerala. While the MSP announced by the BJP central government for paddy for 2023-24 is Rs 2,183 per quintal, the LDF government of Kerala has been giving its paddy farmers a total sum including bonus of Rs 2,820 per quintal.


One key indicator of agrarian distress in India is that in the 25 years between 1997 and 2022 (after which no data is available from the National Crime Records Bureau) more than 3.5 lakh persons in the farming sector committed suicide. Strikingly, about 1,00,474 of these suicides were recorded in the eight years between 2014 and 2022, that is, during the Modi regime. This is a major proportion of the total number of farm suicides.

Actually, even these figures are underestimates, since there are some state governments like West Bengal under TMC rule, which notoriously give a figure of zero farmer suicides due to indebtedness in that state, while the truth is the exact opposite.


The last national level loan waiver scheme for farmers was announced and implemented in 2008. The BJP central government has not declared any farm loan waiver scheme since 2014 up to date. On the other hand, in the last 10 years, banks have written off 15 lakh crore rupees of corporate loans, while the total amount due from farmers to banks, 18 lakh crore rupees, has remained unwaived.

Given the depth of the agrarian crisis in the country, a nation-wide farm loan waiver is essential. Steps like increase in MSP, decrease in input costs,a pro-farmer crop insurance scheme, also need to be taken to deal with the structural causes of agrarian distress so that incomes of farmers will rise and they do not repeatedly get trapped in debt.


In 2016, the government introduced the PMFBY with much fanfare but its implementation has been a failure and its coverage has been shrinking over the years. Many states, including Bihar, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Jharkhand, have opted out of the PMFBY and are offering their own crop insurance schemes.

The area insured under PMFBY has declined from 570.8 lakh hectares in 2016-17 to 487.4 lakh hectares in 2022-23. The paid claims under PMFBY have also fallen from Rs 29,337 crore in 2018 to Rs 18,043 crore in 2022. On the other hand, private insurance companies have together earned about Rs 24,350 crore between 2016-17 to 2020-21 as profits, even as the number of unpaid claims have been mounting.


Farmers were short-changed by the amendments to the 2013 Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Act. To appease the corporate lobby, the Modi government enacted an ordinance on December 29, 2014 amending the LARR Act. In 2015, it passed the LARR Amendment Bill in the Lok Sabha but the opposition blocked its passage in the Rajya Sabha, due to staunch resistance from opposition parties and farmers’ organisations. Many states, however, have undertaken amendments to the LARR Act, 2013 to exempt land acquisition from consent and Social Impact Assessment requirements. As a result, lakhs of acres of land have been and will continue to be acquired by the states for non-agricultural purposes. In the tribal areas, to facilitate land take-over by the corporates, amendments have been made to the Indian Forests Act 1927, the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 etc. The Modi regime is determined to allow the loot of land by corporate interests.


The Modi government has claimed that budgetary allocation for MNGREGA has increased, that the wages of the rural masses have increased, that rural workers now enjoy social security, and that pension schemes and social security have been introduced.


Despite proving its worth for the livelihood of the rural poor and the rural economy, the Modi-led BJP government is working to kill off the MGNREGS. This demand-driven employment scheme has been weakened by the Modi regime through inadequate funding, low wage rates, non-payment of wages, and the undermining of the social audit infrastructure. The recent changes making online attendance compulsory, resorting to caste-wise fund allocation and Aadhaar Bridged wage-disbursement systems, are making things even worse. According to data provided by LibTech India, a consortium of academics and activists, 7.6 crore job cards have been deleted from the system over the last 21 months.

The BJP government has continuously denied adequate allocation of funds to MGNREGS in successive union budgets. The overall allocation for MGNREGS as a proportion of the total budget has sharply decreased. MGNREGS had 1.98 % per cent of the total budget for the financial year 2013-14. It came down to 1.33 per cent of the total budget for 2023-24. There is zero increase in comparison to the revised estimates for the current financial year (2023-24). In the interim budget, Rs 86,000 crore has been allocated for MGNREGS while for the current year, the total expenditure on the MGNREGS so far has been Rs 88,309.72 crore. 

As a result, despite the guarantee of 100 days of work, average working days provided never crossed 50 except during the pandemic year 2020-2021 (51.52 days). Last year the average working days were only 47. The average wages paid to workers under MGNREGS are Rs 208 in 2021-2022 and Rs 216.57 in 2022-23, which are much below the recommendation of the parliamentary standing committee on rural development.


The wages for the major agricultural and non-agricultural occupations declined by 3 per cent per annum from 2013-14 to 2018-19. They fell even more sharply in the Covid period. The main reasons for the decline in rural wages were demonetisation, roll out of GST, reduction in budget allocation for many social security schemes including MGNREGS, and cuts in subsidies.

In sum, the growth of wage rates in rural areas virtually collapsed for all agricultural and non-agricultural occupations in the last nine years from 2014-15 to 2022-23. In real terms, wage rates for various agricultural occupations increased by less than ten to twelve rupees from 2014-15 to 2022-23. For majority of occupations, the growth in real wages was less than one per cent per annum between 2014-15 and 2022-23.

Data from the surveys of the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) shows that about 41 per cent of the rural households did not own any agricultural land in 2018-19. Concentration of land in a few hands still remains a reality in India’s villages and NSSO data for 2018-19 shows that the top 20 per cent of rural households owned 76 per cent of all land. This concentration has risen over the last few decades. We have already seen corporate take-over of land above.

To conclude, the Modi government has been the most anti-peasant, anti-agriculture, and pro-corporate government in India ever since independence. This is why farmers’ struggles against this government have been of such sweep and intensity. The iconic struggle led by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) for over a year in 2020-21 mobilised lakhs of farmers at the Delhi borders, and all over the country, and won a historic victory when it forced the Modi regime to repeal the three black and hated farm laws. But the Modi regime is still committed to its agenda of handing over land and farm produce to the corporates, and intensifying the immiserisation of farmers and labourers. That is why it must be defeated at all costs!


Save Agriculture! Save Farmers and Agricultural Workers!! Defeat BJP!!!




Enable GingerCannot connect to Ginger Check your internet connection
or reload the browser
Disable in this text fieldRephraseRephrase current sentenceEdit in Ginger×

Enable GingerCannot connect to Ginger Check your internet connection
or reload the browser
Disable in this text fieldRephraseRephrase current sentenceEdit in Ginger×