Attributing India’s agrarian distress to the change in the orientation of the State towards peasant agriculture over the last few decades, Kerala Planning Board Vice- Chairman Prabhat Patnaik has said the need of the hour is a re-engagement of the State with peasantry.

Releasing the Malayalam translation of The Hindu Rural Affairs Editor P. Sainath’s book ‘Everybody Loves a Good Drought’ here on Friday, Prof. Patnaik said the seriousness of the agrarian crisis should be evident from the 70,000 suicides reported after the implementation of the agricultural debt waiver scheme.

“The State has turned its back on the peasants. Flow of credit from banks to the peasants has dried up. The State has become more interested in accumulation of capital as different from the early post-independence decades when the State had helped and supported the peasantry with irrigation, credit and procurement and marketing support. This change in the nature and orientation of the State has resulted in high level of distress,” he said.

Sainath lauded

Mr. Sainath’s importance as a journalist was that he did not join the ‘great Indian celebration of growth rates’ because he could see that underlying the growth figures was absolute increase in hunger, poverty and immiseration, which in turn was associated with a deep-rooted agrarian crisis, he said.

In his speech, Mr. Sainath pointed out that the worth of 53 Indian dollar billionaires listed by the Forbes magazine was about 31 per cent of the country’s GDP.

Eight million peasants in India had quit agriculture over the last few decades and nobody knew where they had gone.

K. Sulochana, a beneficiary of the land struggles of the early 1970s, received the book, brought out by Matrubhumi Books, from Prof. Patnaik.