Sunday, December 5, 2010

Governments dare not ignore farmers if they stand united: Dr. JP

Both the Union and State Governments have been viewing farmers as mere robots designed to produce food for the general populace and raw material for industry and not as human beings engaged in a productive occupation to earn their living and contribute to the economy, said Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan here today.

Addressing a convention of farmers’ representatives, Dr. JP asked why the Governments that encourage exports of all industrial goods put their foot down on farm exports and deny fair and remunerative prices for agricultural produce.

Leaders of independent organizations representing producers of varied crops and those engaged in allied activities shared the dais for the first time to mount a united fight for theircause. Nagendranath, P.Chengalreddy, Narsimhareddy, Hanumanthareddy, Chinthalvenkatreddy, S.Ramachendrarao, Manoharreddy, AlapatiChandrashekararao, SwarnaSubbarao, CH.Muralidarrao, Dasaradhavramireddy, Kotireddy, Somashekararao, MuppalaPrakash, S.P.Shankerrao, Balakondareddy, VadlamudiSubharao, D.N.Narayan, Venkatramireddy, Konalrayudu, Prabhakarreddy are among the participants.

Dr. JP said that no Government in Andhra Pradesh would dare ignore farmers if they stood united. There are 1.2 crore farmers and 60 lakh tenants in Andhra Pradesh accounting for at least 7.2 crore people, of whom 3.6 crore are voters. Which party or Government could take them for granted if they joined hands, defying politicians’ attempts at splitting them on caste or party lines?

Inaugurating the convention, Dr. JP pointed out that that the country could not progress if 60 percent of people who depend on agriculture were impoverished through shortsighted Government policies. The per capita income of a farmer in the countryside today is Rs.15,000 against Rs.105,000 of his urban counterpart in non-farm activity. In the next one decade, the urban dweller will make 16 to 17 times more income than a rural dweller.

Dr. JP said that the Government should allow the market rates for agricultural produce to prevail in tune with supply and demand, and not depress them trotting some lame excuse. The farmer should have the freedom to export his produce anywhere in the world. It did not mean that the Government should not bother about the food security of poor and the vulnerable sections. The Government could procure grain after offering a remunerative price to the farmer and take care of food security.

Dr. JP said amidst applause that none had committed suicide citing rising food prices as a reason, whereas a million farmers had ended their lives in the last one decade, mired in debt with agricultural becoming a losing proposition. Agriculture contributed a mere 15 percent to the GDP. In other words, a consumer spent only Rs.15 of every Rs.100 he or she earned on agricultural produce. Of that, food accounted for a mere Rs.5. If the consumer had to spend Rs.2 more on food grains, the burden on him is marginal whereas amounts to a 40 percent increase in the farmer’s income. He appealed to the media to appreciate the economic logic and not attempt to kill the farmer by raising the bogey of the common person.

Referring to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister’s plea to the Union Government to ban export of cotton, Dr. JP said that such a decision might benefit textile tycoons but would harm millions of cotton growers by depriving them of a remunerative price. He explained how the Government was ruining oilseed producers by permitting duty-free import of edible oils and distributing it at highly subsidized rates. Farmers in some Andhra Pradesh districts had been hacking precious palm oil plantations, as imports have depressed local palm oil prices.

Not confining himself to criticizing Government policies, Dr. JP outlined how the Governments could make agriculture remunerative not merely in the interest of farmers but of the nation. He suggested that agriculture be brought under purview of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. As of now, farmers are undergoing great hardship for want of agricultural workers. Extension of the NREGS will ensure livelihood to workers and provide some physical and monetary relief to the farmer. He wanted replacement of bandicoots in market yards with genuine farmers’ representatives. Paddy and cotton growers need not spend weeks in market yards waiting for their produce to dry up. Why should the Government, which collected hundreds of crores of rupees as market cess install dryers and weighbridges, and provide basic amenities to farmers in market yards? The Government should impose a stiff levy on edible oil imports and share it with oilseed producers. The Andhra Pradesh Government should allow free movement of rice and paddy as a permanent feature, offer a bonus of Rs.200 a quintal on paddy, and pressurize the Union Government to lift the ban on rice exports.

Dr. JP underlined the need for a confederation of organizations of various crop producers to decide on policy issues and a United Farmer’s Forum with units up to the village level to fight on day-to-day issues concerning agriculture.

He counseled farmers not to jump with joy over their small victory of forcing the Andhra Pradesh Government to lift restrictions on inter-State movement of rice and paddy. The State Government rescinded the decades-old ban only after the Union Government reprimanded and threatened punitive measures following farmers’ representations. They had miles to go. Genuine farmers should become legislators at both the State and national levels to confront the Governments on issues plaguing them.

A Federation of village level Independent Farmers’ State Associations with Dr.JP as convenor and the following as members is constituted: Nagendranath, Nagi Reddy, Koti Reddy (Nellore), Hanumantha Reddy (Medak), Perumalla Pullaiah (Warangal), Chengalraya Reddy (Chittoor), Pulu Konda Reddy (Kadapa), Sankara Reddy ( Kurnool), Palvai Rami Reddy (Nalgonda), Swarna Subba Rao (Khammam), Gutha Rajesh (Krishna), K. Adinarayana (Ananthapur), Raghavulu (Khammam), Vijaya Kumar (Krishna), Jagannatha Naidu (Chittor), Dasaratha Rami Reddy (Kurnool), V. Rama Raju (West Godavari), Paritala Narayana (Prakasam), Bhaskara Rao (East Godavari dist).

A Confederation of State level Crop-Wise Farmers’ Associations and Farmers’ Associations is convened with P.Prabhakar Reddy as Convenor: Nagendra Nath, Vadlamudi Subba Rao, Narasimha Naidu, Narasimha Reddy, Nageswara Raju.

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