‘It’s more than an agrarian crisis’: P. Sainath

Journalist P. Sainath  

For veteran journalist P. Sainath, the loss of humaneness and empathy is a basic thread that connects the various manipulations that the powers that be and the corporate media have indulged in to cover up the increasing number of farmer suicides. Delivering the Sarathchandran memorial lecture at the 12th International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala (IDSFFK) on Sunday, he said that what we are experiencing now goes far beyond an agrarian crisis, becoming a societal or even civilisational crisis.

Fudged figures

“The government started fiddling with the farmer suicide data in 2013, when the numbers became absolutely obscene. In the following years, the methodology was changed, as a result of which farmers’ suicide fell by 50%, while the ‘others’ column went up by 128%. In 2016, the government stopped the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) from publishing farmer suicide data. In 2017, they shut down NCRB and later merged it with the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD). It is like cancelling a general election and holding an opinion poll. More than 60% of the work in agriculture is being done by women. But since they are not recognised as farmers, women suicide in agriculture is massively underestimated,” said Mr. Sainath, founder editor of the People’s Archive of Rural India.

He slammed those who attribute farmers’ suicide to cases of depression, rather than economic factors, for failing to examine the real cause of this depression. He said that most discussions on agriculture were now limited to the minimum support price and loan waiver.

“In 1990s no farmers’ body demanded a loan waiver. By 2008, they started making these demands because the credit system available to them was dismantled and diverted towards the corporate sector. Although agricultural credit has nearly trebled, none of these went to the agriculturists. In 2017, 53% of the agricultural credit that NABARD provided to Maharashtra was allocated to Mumbai city and suburbs, where there are no agriculturists, only agri businesses. Between 2000 and 2010, loans less than ₹50,000 fell to less than half of what they were, while loans above ₹10 crore trebled. When farmers are squeezed of credit, they are forced to go to the moneylenders,” he said.

Rays of hope

However, Mr. Sainath said, he was not ready to drown in despair, as he saw hope in the uprising of farmers under the All India Kisan Sabha in 2018, the large middle class support that it got in Maharashtra, and in the government acceding to some of their demands.

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Printable version | May 6, 2021 6:56:41 PM |

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