The Centre has had a topsy-turvy relationship with the agriculture sector since 2014, with a few hits, but also a lot of misses.
On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made yet another attempt to diffuse the anger of farmers against the three new farm laws which have – for over two months now – inspired protests in large parts of the country, led by the farmers of Punjab, Haryana and now western Uttar Pradesh (the green revolution regions).
Modi said that farmers should trust him, his government and their intentions. “I want to tell my farmer brothers and sisters from the sacred ghats of the holy city of Kashi (Varanasi) that our intention is as pious as the water of Maa Ganga (the holy river Ganga),” he said as he admitted that farmers are apprehensive about the new laws.
The fact that Modi, who was trusted – more or less – with the demonetisation of 86% of currency notes, which was little explained, reckless and now proven disastrous for most Indians, felt the need to say this speaks volumes for the level of distrust that farmers now feel with him and his government.
The issue of trust – or lack of it – is key with respect to these protests. The farmers are most agitated at something that the new laws, by themselves, don’t necessarily do – abolish the minimum support price (MSP) regime or curtail procurement under it.
And the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has pulled out all the stops to assure the farmers that this isn’t going to happen. The prime minister, the finance minister and the agriculture minister have all said that procurement under the MSP regime will continue.
But farmers, at least in a few states, don’t appear to trust them.
For instance, this is what a protesting farmer said when The Wire pointed out that the government has said that MSP will continue:
“Sarkar to ye bhi kaha tha ki 2 crore logon ko rozgar denge… sarkar to ye bhi bol rahi thi kala dhan le aaye, sarkar to ye bhi kehti hai ki China ko khader diya (The government also said that 2 crore people will be given employment… the government also said that black money has been recovered, it also said that China no longer occupies Indian territory).
He goes on to list a couple of other unfulfilled promises of the government or achievements of the government according to news channels allied with it, before saying, “Sarkar puri tarah jhuti hai. Aur Modi sarkar pe ratti bhar bhi bharosa karna apna gala ghotne jaise hai (This government is full of lies. To trust the Modi government is like strangulating yourself).”
Farmers at the Ghazipur border. Photo: The Wire
And this sentiment of lack of trust has been echoed by most farmers and farmer organisations during these protests which have now stretched on for over 2 months. It’s not without reason that farmers don’t trust the government. Since 2014, when the Modi-led government came to power, it has failed to deliver on a range of its pre-election promises and flagship schemes across the spectrum.
The Wire will provide a brief snapshot of some of the government’s unfulfilled promises and some of its schemes which have flattered to deceive with respect to agriculture specifically. Bear in mind, this list is not exhaustive.