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A thought for farmers

My summer vacations were mostly spent at my grandparents’ home in a small township in Maharashtra surrounded by fields of cotton and groundnut. My grandfather was a civil engineer and during our formative years, he filled our minds with beautiful thoughts. He never advised us, but his stories and jokes got embedded in our minds.

One of the things he taught us was to say a prayer of thanks to the farmer and god before every meal. This became a habit for all his grandchildren and we follow it to this day. Now as a senior citizen, each morning, as I read the newspaper and hear the news, it saddens me that we have failed to respect the farmer who toils in inclement weather so that we can eat. We must expose our children to the farmers’ way of life. The farmer sows the seeds and gets the harvest with hard work and labour.

Standing in the paddy fields in deep water for days while planting the seedlings with the sun scorching their backs — just think about it. Can we endure it? How long can we? And the farmer continues to do this year after year. Don’t you think he should reap the benefits of his labour and improve his standard of living. Here I am talking about the small and marginal farmers. For most of them, it is just filling in the gaps created by their expenses and debts. No law should be a threat to them.

Any law should uphold the rights of the farmers and not be in favour of big agricultural corporates at the expense of them. The corporates will get richer and the farmer still remains in poverty.

The new laws can lead to hoarding of produce such as wheat, rice, pulses, onion and potatoes in unlimited quantities for an unlimited time. This will eventually lead to black market by creating a a false scarcity affecting the consumer in a big way. Warehouses are owned by the big players, and not by the small farmers. So the latter have to sell before the perishable produce becomes inedible.

Today’s farmer is well aware of what is happening in this country and the world, thanks to the media. Let us not underestimate their resolve and power. If he does not toil and sow, what do we eat? The farmers fear that in time, the mandis will be slowly wiped out and they will be at the mercy of private entities and forced to bid the lowest.

In the middle of the pandemic today, the farmers’ movement can be a turning point economically and socially. If the pendulum of power shifts towards the large agricultural food corporations and not towards the small farmers, the working class will have to face the brunt of it in the long run.

The human factor is of supreme value in any development project because after all, development is for the people. Investments in agriculture are the best weapons against hunger and poverty and they have made life better for billions of people. The key lies in empowering the millions of small holders who form the backbone of rural economics to improve their livelihoods. Any law enacted should be in the right spirit and help to push the rural economy to greater heights, keeping in mind the good will of the small farmers.

asvijnit@yahoo.com

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Printable version | Mar 5, 2021 4:23:06 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/a-thought-for-farmers/article33536897.ece

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