Farmers’ Unrest, A Problem of Plenty. By Father Anand Muttungal

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The Bengal’s Famine of 1943 which claimed around four million people, till date it is recorded as the worst food disaster in the world. The historians believe that its impact haunted India even after Independence so food security and public distribution system was at the top priority in the free Nation. Our Country initiated Green Revolution with three main objectives namely continued expansion of farming areas; double-cropping existing farmland and using seeds with improved genetics. It may not have had absolute success but except a few incidents of importing onion, sugar etc. we did not have scarcity of food in the country in general.
The present farmers’ unrest in Madhya Pradesh is problem of plenty. The wheat production in the state is estimated to be around 8 million metric tons which is two times higher than last year. It has led to a serious problem of scarcity of jute storage bags for packing, safely storing the procured wheat and inefficient public distribution system. The present widespread protest by the farmers across the state began with the suicide of a farmer due to delay in procurement. While protesting the farmer’s death former Bareli village council president Hari Singh Prajapati was killed in police gunfire and several others were injured in separate incidents of violence in different parts of the state.
If one side we are brimming with plenty on the other side scarcity impact is very much felt, a recent survey has pointed out that around 60 percentages of children and a good number of pregnant women are malnourished in Madhya Pradesh. After procuring wheat from the farmers Government goes to stores it in the open space due to lack of godowns. It is very often reported by the media that the procured wheat is getting spoiled in the rain. The public distribution system seems to be less efficient to deal with this special problem. The Bhartiya Janata Party led Madhya Pradesh Government puts the entire blame on the Central Government for the problem while the State Congress blames the State Government for the same. In the previous year Government of Madhya Pradesh had distributed six months of ration to the below poverty line card holders to control the problem of plenty. Even though it had its own drawbacks it helped to solve the problem but it is said that did not go well with the union government.
This issue calls us to a deeper problem of farmers across the Country where very often suicides of farmers are reported. We can go on blaming the entire system for not doing anything for the farmers but it shall not bring any positive result. Probably at this juncture we need to think in the lines of the father of Indian Green Revolution, M.S. Swaminathan, who in an interview to InfoChange News and Features,( April 2008, Edition), said, “India needs to come up with a drought code, a flood code and a good weather code. They need to come up with a scheme very quickly. Grain reserves are important for food security, seed reserves are important for crop security and a proper contingency plan must be in place to ensure minimum devastation in case of floods. Such a plan does not mean a mere piece of paper, rather it should help direct a farmer who has lost his main crop to come up with a second plan; what kind of crop he should grow next.”
India needs a comprehensive agricultural policy including climate concerns and public distribution system. India can not claim to be a developed nation if its 70 percentage population namely farmers are less benefited from the development efforts. It is a right time our politicians, scientists and technicians put their heads together to find a solution to the present and the imminent future crisis.

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