Massive Farmer Rally in Mumbai

March 13, 2018
1 year

What is the issue?

  • The “long march of the farmers” (protest) in Maharashtra has brought back the attention on the crisis that beholds the Indian agriculture.
  • It is important to recognize that the issues raised aren’t merely superficial and they question the very socio-economic framework of our society.

What were the broader contours of the protest?

  • A series of long-standing demands like - Loan waivers increased MSP, wider diffusion of effective property rights, improvements in irrigation.
  • The rally was a deeply emotional reminder of how much the farmer has become an invisible entity in our larger political mesh.  
  • While most farmer movements were pressure tactics against governments and is dominated by the landed and well off castes, the current is very different.
  • This seems largely like a march of the most marginalised in dire desperation to liberate themselves from the fringes of the economic spectrum. 
  • Hence, it would be a mistake to see the current voices as mere screams that could be shunted with unsustainable populist handouts.

What are the nuances that need special attention?

  • MSP - The farmers have asserted the need to reform the way “Minimum Support Price” (MSP) is fixed, which is a prudent economic demand.  
  • The demand is to assess the true estimate of costs, and commission a cost plus model to secure farmer earnings after months of hard labour.
  • While farmers are thought to be pampered with waivers, this debate highlights how consumers have been subsidised in invisible ways by farmers for long. 
  • Loans - While loan waivers in a well-functional system won’t be necessary, considering the extent of distress in the sector, it is in fact not all that bad.
  • There is a moral hazard in disputing desperate financial waivers as this would mean dismissing distributive justice that forms the core of our democracy.
  • Irrigation - Part of the crisis has been induced by failures of irrigation projects, which calls for a rethink on our approach in this regard.   
  • Additionally, with increased focus on - roads, ports, power capacity etc, irrigation network up gradation has taken a backseat.
  • Marketing - Agriculture is not a business in the conventional sense and faces production and price risks and a great deal of market regulations.
  • The interventionist role of the state in farming and random subsidisation policies are some serious issues that need streamlining. 
  • Rural Neglect - The urban bias of public policy, media’s incapacity to capture and highlight rural distress work congruently to worsen farmer woes.
  • Rural India also faces a double social disadvantage due to our failures in health and education sectors, which envelops farmers almost completely.

What is the way ahead?

  • It would be morally obtuse and analytically misleading to see this long march as simply a demand for palliatives, subsidies, waivers.
  • Those constructions are often used to disguise the questions of distributive justice at play, and they reinforce the stereotype of the farmer as a mere victim.
  • The long march is instead a claim for economic agency and rationality, human dignity, political representation, and cultural visibility.


Source: Indian Express

Login or Register to Post Comments

sujeet mishra 1 year

It is highly absurd that the people who undertake the most primary job for human sustenance are paid peanuts. The entire socio-economic infrastructure is biased against agriculture. As the income of a household increases the share of expenditure on food items continues to decrease and increases on items of luxury. The government could charge a cess on luxury items and redistribute it among poor and marginal farmers for the pursuance of the idea of distributive justice. Agriculture needs to be made an attractive and viable occupation if the food security, health and well being of more than a billion Indians are to be secured.