Haryana elections: Not just Pakistan; rural distress too a factor

AM Jigeesh | Updated on November 04, 2019

Voters stand in a queue and show their voting cards as they wait to cast their votes at a polling station for the Haryana Assembly elections, at Badkal in Faridabad, Monday, October 21, 2019.   -  PTI

Farmers’ groups raise concerns over cotton crop, rural incomes and cost of clearing stubble

As Haryana goes to polls today, the role of rural issues in determining electoral choices cannot be dismissed out of hand. This is despite the overarching theme of natural security entering the poll discourse.

Talking to reporters recently, Union Agriculture Minister and the ruling BJP’s election in-charge in Haryana Narendra Singh Tomar said abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and the welfare measures taken by the Centre and State governments will give a decisive victory for the BJP in the State. “Besides being an agrarian State, Haryana is known for having a large number of youth serving in the armed forces. So, the measures we have taken to improve the security situation in J&K, including the scrapping of Article 370, will help us in the coming elections,” Tomar was quoted as saying.

The BJP is also hopeful that increased acreage of kharif crops, a better cotton production and an additional ₹ 6,000 a year given by the State government other than the Centre’s ₹ 6,000 under Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-Kisan) to farmers will help them in the elections.

The principal Opposition, the Congress hopes to swing the agrarian distress in its favour. Party’s main campaigner and former president Rahul Gandhi said in an election rally near Mahendragarh that Prime Minister Narendra Modi gives lakhs of crores of rupees of country’s money to a handful of billionaires. “Farmers have been demanding loan waivers, but Modi waived off taxes of big corporates. Newspapers will write a lot if farm loans are waived off. But they are silent when corporate houses get tax or loan waivers. Newspapers applauded when corporate taxes were waived off recently,” he said and promised Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh-model loan waivers to farmers in Haryana.

Farmers’ organisations, however, say that other than these brief statements the major political forces in the State failed to answer the questions raised by farmers. Suresh Koth, a Haryana based farmers’ activist said it was the regional parties such as the Indian National Lok Dal and its splinter group Jannayak Janata Party that discussed the farmers’ problems than the Congress or the BJP. “The BJP is stuck on abrogation of Article 370. The Congress tried to raise loan waivers and debated it during some rallies. But larger issues such as guaranteed MSP and increasing input costs have not come to the mainstream discussions yet,” Koth said.

He points out that farmers forced to sell paddy at a lesser price during last kharif. “Mill owners and officers collude to trouble farmers. BJP Government didn’t act. They are not in favour of farmers. When Jat-based parties raised such issues, BJP dubbed it as caste-based politics and polarised other social groups against farmers,” Koth claimed.

Stubble burning is another issue that was debated during the polls. Farmers claim that they do stubble burning out of compulsion. Farmers say that they will need to spend another Rs 7,000 per acre to clear the stubbles. “They don’t have money. They have been given directions by the governments, but not any solution to the problem. Farmers know that burning is unscientific. But they have no other way. They should be given subsidies to clear the field ahead of the next crop season,” Koth said. Issues like counterfeit pesticides, non-implementation of MS Swaminathan Commission report and inadequate MSP are also discussed among farmers during the polls.

All India Kisan Sabha’s State vice president Inderjit Singh believes that the actual extent of farmers’ distress and their resentment will be known only after counting. “The situation is not the one which was at the Parliament election. Even at that time, there was dissatisfaction, but Pulwama and other issues overshadowed the situation. Agrarian crisis and livelihood issues were put on the backburner. But there has been improvement at all. Haryana has the highest rate of unemployment in the country. Crisis in agriculture has compounded the gravity of unemployment,” Singh said.

Farmers leaders point out that the economic slowdown is additionally impacting the overall rural scene. They say that cotton is a main produce in at least five districts of the State and its purchase starts in the upcoming week. “Textile industry is also in crisis as last year’s cotton is not consumed,” Singh said. The farmers are yet to know that whether the Government agencies will procure cotton this year. “We tried our best to bring back the real issues at the forefront by interacting with persons from various parts of life. State procurement of kharif crops in last season was poor. They started an online system, which failed to impress farmers,” he said, and added that last week’s rain and hailstorm has impacted the paddy and cotton of this year’s kharif.

Published on October 21, 2019

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