Today, I was watching a Movie called Summer 2007 starring Sikandar Kher, Gul Panag, Ashutosh Rana. The Movie portrays shades of Farmer Suicide problems, the terror of Sahukars / Mahajans, the friction between Money Lenders and the people who aspire to bring about a change (like Microfinance) and eventually, some enlightenment of a bunch of Medical Students. I would rate the movie quite average except that, the message which the movie carries is excellent. Towards the end, it shows some real thought-provoking facts:
1) When there is a war raging, it is very difficult to stay out of it. One day the war will get to you.
2) Since 1997, 150000 farmers have committed suicide in 7 states of India, according to Government figures.
3) Maharashtra alone accounts for 20% of the total deaths.
4) Over the last 10 years Governments changed both in the state and the Centre however the suicide rates in Maharashtra kept on increasing at an alarming rate of 105%
5) Succumbing to the public outcry, the Central Government announced a Loan-Waiver scheme of Rs. 60,000 crore in the Central Budget of 2008.
6) However, this loan waiver was only for Institutional Credit.
7) Millions of farmers continue to suffer at the hands of the Money Lenders!
If we go into the distribution of how much is waived-off where, outta this Rs 60,000 crore waiver, we find out:
Commercial Banks Rs 12,000 crore
Cooperative Banks Rs 37,000 crore
Regional Rural Banks Rs 11,000 crore
Evidently, this doesn't include the Non-Institutional Credit (the credit accrued from unorganized sources / Money-Lenders against mortgage of Non-Liquid Assets). Indeed, its very difficult for the Government to also take care of the Non-Institutional Credit, as it is almost impossible! Majority of the farmers do not have sufficient securities or assets against which they can draw loans from the Banks. Eventually they end up suffering at the hands of Lalas and Sahukars, with interest (Sood) mounting on and on and on, ultimately overtaking the principle itself.
The whole life hence passes in the slavery of somebody else. What can be more ridiculous than this, in a country which is called "FREE" ? What can be more embarrassing for a country whose currency coin itself is embossed by the images of crops?
Clearly by any yardstick, this scheme is a Welcome Step by the Government and we all hope that it would reduce the agonies of a huge number of suffering farmers. But, Is it a medicine which cures from the root of the disease? I guess, NOT. This is just a remedial medicine which can provide relief for a certain amount of time. Unless the hygiene is maintained, the disease is likely to resurface again. It is ultimately an economic cycle where every link plays its own role. The due importance of the loans & their payback have to be somewhere realized by the farmers. They have to stay prepared to take care of the payback themselves.
By waiver schemes like this, the pain can only be shared, it can't be eliminated forever!! Looking at the flip side of this relief step, we are in turn also weakening our farmers by sending across a message that irrespective of the goof-ups/mismanagement by the farmers, the Government is with them. Unfortunately, this is not the way economics work! The economic equation also has to be satisfied. They can not just be ignored for the sake of collecting goodwill.
Rahul Gandhi in his Post-Budget speech in Parliament classifies India into two. The Excerpts from his Speech are: "Mr Speaker Sir, there are two distinct voices among India's people today. The louder of these voices comes from an India that is empowered, an India that has proven to itself and to the world that it will shape the future. It is an India rich with opportunity and talent, straining to be unleashed.
The other voice is yet to be empowered. It is not as loud, but reverberates across the country. It is the voice of disenfranchised people reminding us that they too have potential to fulfill. They too are enterprising, hardworking, and self-reliant, and they ask only to be given an opportunity....."
This first step by the Government, has to be supported by solutions with which our India-2 (as explained above) may empower itself for the future so that there is no suffering again, so that no waiver-scheme needs to be announced again. Lets not let it take the form of a perennial epidemic. I truly support Rahul Gandhi when he says "they too have potential to fulfill" and "they ask only to be given an opportunity". But, that opportunity being sought definitely is something more than just the waiver relief. It has to be supported with better irrigation facilities, better and organized market structure which can get them their due compensation, better assistance in terms of technology and subsidy on equipments etc. The driving step of this waiver scheme really needs to be backed by the power of all these factor inputs. Lets not just repeat what happened in 1990 and come up with another waiver package by 2020. Lets treat the problem the way Homeopathy does! :)
Lastly, I just hope that even this Rs 60K crore package serves its purpose and reaches to the needy hands rather than stuffing the pockets of Sarkari Babus and Afsars who do not even smile unless they are bribed!
3 days ago