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April 26, 2017 / subramanyam

Protests of Farmers from TamilNadu : My Musings.

I have great respect for Tamils. While I was never a resident of TamilNadu, I tried learning Tamil and a thing or two about the land that was ruled by the great Cholas and Pandyas.

The unity of the Tamils and some wonderful leadership from the likes of Rajaji, Kamaraj, Anna, MGR ensured that TamilNadu was far ahead of the other southern states post-Independence. Populism reached it’s peak during the regimes of Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa. Now that Amma Jayalalithaa has left the world and Kalaignar Karunanidhi is out of active politics, the state seems to be headed for turbulent times.

We saw protests for Jallikattu and the way things could have gone out of control if not for the quick action of the then CM. Then we had the Cola ban; now we see the protests by the farmers. Of the three, the protests of the farmers is a tough one to understand.

See, Agriculture is a state subject. So anything with respect to Agriculture must be solved at the state level. These farmers were protesting near Jantar Mantar instead of the state capital. This is the first difficult thing to understand. They resolve to acts like stripping themselves naked, drinking urine, etc. which are terrible acts and unexpected from self-respecting farmers. Then, they called off the protest when their Chief Minister gave them assurance and not the central government. Isn’t it puzzling? You start the protest expecting the center to talk and call it off when the state government talks.

Now, let us look at the major demands of the farmers.
1. 40000 crore rupee package for the drought relief in Tamilnadu.
2. Waiver of Farm Loans
3. Interlinking of Rivers.

Let us look at each of these demands.

1. Drought Relief: It is true that TamilNadu is facing a drought-like situation. However, 40,000 crore packages for drought are unheard of. It is considered a huge achievement if a district manages to get 100 crore rupees for drought relief. The Center has already released 2200 crores for the drought relief. According to TN government websites, paddy is cultivated in 25 lakh hectares in the state. When you look at the funds sanctioned it is close to 9000 Rupees per Hectare. Now instead of questioning the state government as to how these funds were spent why are the farmers questioning the center?

2. Waiver of Farm Loans: This is totally a state subject. The governments of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have waived off the loans for their farmers in 2014. Since then they have been allocating Rs. 5000 Crores to 10,000 crores in every budget for loan waiver. In UP, BJP promised that they would waive the loans if they come to power. Once they came to power, the union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has clearly said that the waiver will come from the state government only and not from the center. Again, someone has clearly misguided the farmers, and they were protesting at the JantarMantar for this.

3. Interlinking of Rivers: The center is working on this and is encouraging the state to start on this. AP has already interlinked Godavari and Krishna rivers using Pattiseema. It is true that Interlinking of Rivers was a project that Shri Vajpayee ji envisioned and that can definitely change the face of the country. The center might be working on it, but a lot more is desired from the NDA-2 on this.

What could have happened: Honestly the way the TN government worked here raises serious doubts. The political instability in the state seems to be taking a toll on the people now. See, the central government of India launched Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bhima Yojana for farmers to ensure their crops by paying only 2% of the insurance cost; This scheme protects them from all disasters as well all natural calamities. The schemes had a rousing reception in the country, and we had 3.9 crore farmers enrolling for it for the Kharif season of 2016. In contrast, we had only 16056 farmers in Tamilnadu who joined this scheme. Whom do we blame for this, the political instability in TamilNadu or the Government machinery (employees and departments) who should have ensured that the farmers get enrolled?

Also, it is not just TamilNadu but the entire country that is heading towards the water crisis. The excessive dependence on Paddy is making it even more challenging. How many of us know that it takes 2500 liters of water to get one KG of rice. A few decades ago, people had many other kinds of cereal that complemented rice in the regular lunch. Today we are becoming more and more dependent on rice and are paying a huge price for it. Now, even after we know these stats, how many of us or how many governments have the guts to go back to the farmers and convince them to have a crop holiday paddy ? Close to none isn’t it?

Again, both the DMK and the AIADMK have been spending humongous amounts on populist schemes.  We have that happening even today.   Can we ask these governments to cut down on SOPS (I am not saying that sops need to be eliminated, all I am saying is cut down say 30-50% on these areas) and invest money on saving water and improving irrigation.

Instead of speaking about all these, the media is happily telecasting these protests; they are trying to play with emotions, stoking passions and are even trying to bring in the North-South divide. Some are saying that the Tamil Pride is getting hurt. I request them to think beyond emotions and look for the solutions to resolve issues.

Coming back to the farmers, there are many allegations that some of these people are not farmers. The story on Sheik Hussain and the photoshoot of India Today actually raise doubts on these people. However, I do not wish to blame the farmer who grows food for all of us. I want the false blame games to end and help be done to the deserving people of TamilNadu.

It is pretty easy to stoke passions and emotions, the trouble, they would never give a solution.  When you get to the table for a solution you will realize the humongous effort that needed to wipe the every tear from every eye.  Blaming the central government, Modi, the north south divide are nice to hear and will definitely appeal to the masses, however, it would be nicer of we can come up with the solutions to handle the crisis that are looming on all of us.

References :

Balaji Viswanathan’s answer on Quora.


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