Who is to be blamed for the Farmers and Migrant Labor Crisis?

NewsBharati    18-May-2020 12:20:47 PM
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- Brig G B Reddy (Retd)
On expected lines, politics has broken out over the issue of farmers and migrant Labor crisis. Blame games have just started and the focus of all opposition political parties and partisan media houses are blaming Modi for the crisis. Rahul Gandhi is spearheading the blame game from the opposition parties portraying himself as the “messiah” of the migrant laborers, farmers and BPL families ably supported by partisan media headed by editors like Rajdeep Sardesai, Rahul Kanwal and others. Shedding “Crocodile Tears” has become the favorite pastime of Rahul Gandhi over Farmer’s and Migrant Labor crises. First, let me highlight the ignorance of Rahul Gandhi over the “Farmer’s” crisis. Nature was bountiful for the farmer’s all over the country. Surely, his agriculture experts should have briefed him that the2019-20 food grain production is a record high of 291.95 million tons. Total Pulses production during 2019-20 is estimated at 23.02 million tons which is higher by 2.76 million tons than the Five years' average production of 20.26 million tons. So, farmer’s crisis is woeful fake and fraud news.
Does Rahul Gandhi know the basics of farmer’s problems? Who are the genuine farmers who must be cared for by the State? Who are the farmers taking loans and the type of loans? Does he at least know the categorization of farmers? Also, the categorization of lands – Wet and Dry lands? The genuine farmers are the tenant farmers, who are not eligible for loans from Agricultural Cooperative Banks and Commercial Banks. They take loans from money lenders at 18 to 30% interest rates.
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Absentee landlords take majority of farm loans and crop subsidies. Today, they own farm lands acquired astride the National and State Highways as “Real Estate” investments and lying barren or cultivated by tenant farmers. Surely, they cannot be treated as “deserving farmers”. In the recent past, Leader of Opposition in Maharashtra Legislative Council Dhananjay Munde had stated that a businessman, Ratnakar Gutte, promoter of the Gangakhed Sugar and Energy Limited in the state's Parbhani district, had allegedly secured loans worth over Rs 5400 crore on the basis of fake documents made in the name of farmers. He claimed Gutte had formed 22 shell companies to route the money. And, he had transferred bank loans obtained by various groups firms into different accounts.
So, Rahul Gandhi and all those passing expert comments on farmer’s issues, let me highlight the salient features of farmers. First, categories of “farmers” include: marginal farmers with less than 2-acres land; small farmers with 2-5 acres land; Semi-medium farmers with 5-10 acres land; Medium with 10-15 acres of land; and large with above 15-acres of land. Next, there are two types of loans are taken by farmers – crop loans and mortgage loans. One, crop loan @Rs.50,000/- per acre are given by Banks and farmers who know the processes of gaining access to loans benefit. For plantations and gardens, Banks also give loans based on project appraisals. Less known are the “Mortgage Loans” given to farmers based on 50% of market value of land.
Add to it, input subsidies given under a variety of schemes both by the Central and State Government sometimes to the tune of 80% of project costs like drip and sprinkler irrigation and green house. Also, Rythu Bandhu scheme @ Rs.5,000/- per acre per crop and input subsidies in Telangana and Rs.15,000/- per acre in Andhra Pradesh. Plantations, commercial gardens and others fall in yet another category. For example, there are over 100 tea estates covering over 4 lakhs 75 thousand acres, that is, with 4750 acres average per estate. Similarly, there are large tea estates in South India. Even coffee, rubber, cashew and coconut plantations fall in a separate category. Bannana, vulnerable to monsoon devastation along the coast lines, also need to be treated as a separate category.
In sum, subsidies and loans must be given priority-wise to tenant farmers followed by marginal farmers, small farmers and medium farmers. Surely, extending subsidies to large and corporate farmers is the worst fraud being perpetrated for a long time. Next, migrant labor exodus has become the ‘flogging issue’ of Rahul Gandhi, opposition parties and the partisan media spearheaded by Rajdeep Sardesai, Rahul Kanwal and their ilk, which is yet another bizarre obfuscation to mislead people. What are the realities? Let me retrace the background. Lockdown 1.0 was declared from 24 March to 14 April 2020. And, people were told to stay indoors. On 26 March 2020, Rs. One lakh 70 thousand ($22.5 billion) was announced primarily as food security measures for poor households (800 million Daily wage earners, small business owners, and low-income households) through direct cash transfers.
Under the existing scheme, low-income earners get 5 kilograms of rice or wheat per month at a heavily subsidized rate. It was increased with an additional 5 kg of either rice or wheat per person for the next three months, and 1 kg of pulses per household for that same period — for free. Rumor and fear mongering spun by opposition political parties resulted in explosion of migrant labor exodus in Delhi by 28 March 2020. Paradoxical, Congress leader Rahul Ghandy (Pappu the Great) lashed out at the Centre, instead of the Delhi State government, sharing a video showing migrant workers "struggling to find their way back home". Rahul Gandhi took to Twitter and said the Government of India did not chalk out "contingency plans" for the "exodus".
In reality, Arvind Kejriwal, Chief Minister of Delhi, the greatest showmaster, was squarely responsible for allowing the DTC Buses to ferry the migrant labor to the borders on neighboring states. And, Kejriwal laid claims of savior of the poor by announcing free ration with 50% extra quantity to 72 lakhs people besides free food to homeless people in all night shelters. Kejriwal also claimed that AAP is extremely concerned about daily wagers, laborers amid Coronavirus crisis and his party would not let anyone to sleep on an empty stomach. What happened to relief camps? In reality, the scenes of thousands of daily wage workers and other migrant laborers that reached Anand Vihar Inter State Bus terminus, Ghazipur, Badrapur and Ghaziabad’s Lal Kuan area after travelling in DTC Buses or trekking on foot to take buses to their respective native places clearly exposes the fraud of Arvind Kejriwal and his party claims. Following the exodus, the UP government arranged buses to ferry migrant laborers stranded in border districts after an emergency meeting. Also, the Central government once again urged state governments to take immediate steps to set up temporary accommodation for stranded migrants across the country.
Having been witness to the first burst of exodus by 30 March of migrant labor in Hyderabad on the highway next to my home and interacted with them, let me earnestly provide grass root level perspective. When I saw a 5-year old child walking with his parents, I stopped them and asked them to revert back to their places of work or so called shelters. They pleaded helplessness to return to shelters since there were none to provide shelter and food. Having walked 5 days and nights without food during my withdrawal during the 1962 India’s China War, I was aghast at the 5-year old child attempting to walk 2000-kms to native places. I could not sleep the whole night as I felt that children may be either abandoned on road side left to die.
Next day, I made an attempt to reach out to people known to me suggesting that all “Function Halls (100s of them in and around Hyderabad)” be taken over by the Government and relief centers organized for migrant labor. There were no takers for my suggestion. I dare highlight that all alike at the State government level to the “Employers” of migrant labor and the civic society organizations were blatantly insensitive to migrant labor exodus and their plight. My question first to the “Employers” is simple. Isn’t the “Employers” first responsibility to care for their labor? Why did they allow them to flee? Had they cared for them and psychologically boosted their morale, surely they would not have attempted ‘reverse migration’ crisis?
Next, my question to all those “Human Rights” activists and Civil Society Organizations as to why they were not in the forefront of providing succor to migrants? Otherwise, they are in the forefront of criticizing the governments over “Human Rights” concerns and lecture on “Humanity” considerations. Surely, they are equally to be blamed for the plight of the migrant labor exodus. What about Rahul Gandhi and other opposition political parties in the last week of March and early part of April 2020? Were they sleeping in AC rooms? Isn’t their responsibility for looking after the migrant labor? What about the State government’s responsibility? Have they spent all the funds released and authorized by the Central Government? Or, have they as usual in the past, siphoned off the funds and food items into their private holdings?
That brings me to the point of highlighting the places of origin of migrant labor exodus in various states to include: 1) Delhi; 2) Mumbai, Pune, Nashik and other location in Maharashtra; 3) Surat and Ahemdabad in Gujarat; 4) Karnataka; 5) Telangana; 6) Rajasthan; 7) Tamil Nadu; 8) Harayana; 9) West Bengal; and so on. And, the states bearing burnt of migrant labor influx include: 1) UP; 2) Bihar; 3) Jharkand: 4) Chattisgarh; and so on.