I recently came across an article on social media, which exhorted Indians to spend on farmer welfare rather than blowing it on a lip syncing pop sensation. Although a lot of people who went to the concert will tell you that felt as cheated as a Nigerian lottery scam victim & the fact it is no Ines business how I spend my hard earned income tax deducted money , this article is not about that.
What I want to throw light on is about is the unending mollycoddling of the hallowed Indian farmer by its populace.
One can't challenge the fact that, most of the Indian farmers continue to remain poor, have low levels of education, lack basic infra, low standards of living etc etc. But then again look at the benefits of being a farmer in India - they pay no taxes, get free electricity, free education , free/subsidised fertilisers & get their loans waived off every now and then! It's in stark contrast of the urban population or people from rural India who are not into agriculture or related activities - pay taxes, pay for electricity & no loan waivers. Even a daily wage laborer- say a porter or a cobbler - who is making minimum wages never has the good fortune of getting a loan waiver! So if your are not a farmer & are neck deep in debt, the Indian government doesn't give a rat's ass about your situation. Picture this - even if you have died fighting for your country, your family won't be fortunate enough to receive a loan waiver from the government. And yes, you will have to pay your income taxes for as long as you live. So what the government is trying to say is farmers are way more important than its army men!
The middle class Indian - the ATM machine of the country too will be shown no sympathy in the event of a debt issue, or a cash crunch. This, in spite of paying taxes & for everything that you can imagine. Yes, even for using a bridge, for which he has already paid in terms of direct & indirect taxes.
The wealthy farmer is the luckiest of the lot. Not only does he enjoy all the perks of being a farmer, he doesn't pay a single penny in taxes. If demonetisation was a success among the masses, owing to sadistic pleasure they got from seeing the rich run helter skelter trying to save their ill gotten wealth, we can bet on the success of income taxes for the millionaire farmers in our country.
The farmers are not the only poor people in our country. Despite rapid economic progress, large swathes of our population continue to remain below poverty line. India's per capita income of $1600 is one of the lowest in the world. Many of Indian poor - who works as security guards, cobblers, domestic maids, vegetable vendors, continue to live in urban slums or rural hutments in deplorable conditions.
Why then are politicians & public in general so protective about farmers? The answer is not to difficult to decipher.
It was Lal Bahadur Shashtri one of the first few PM's of independent India who coined the term "Jai Jawaan Jai Kisan". Those were times when most of India was poor, lived in villages & agriculture contributed approx. 80% of its GDP. 70 years post independence the dependence on agricultural income has drastically reduced. In spite of agriculture contributing only approx. 25% towards the nation's GDP, a large part of our population continues to depend on agricultural income.
Our slimy, power hungry politicians have smartly been sourcing funds from the urban middle class to suck up to the farmer & spoil them with social welfare benefits. Even a middle class sympathising party like the BJP couldn't resist the temptation of handing out a farm loan waiver during UP elections.
Such cushioning has deeply spoilt the Indian farmer, who is now just as sick as our national carrier. Studies by eminent economists, have shown that farmers tend to relapse into huge debts a few years after receiving a farm loan waiver. They tend to rack up huge debts, expecting a farm loan waiver again. Farmers tend to be reckless while using fertilisers/ pesticides due to it being given free of cost or at a throw away price. This badly affects productivity.
I am not alien to the concept of charity. All should do their bit for society & it's under privileged. Taxes are a form of charity or wealth redistribution, where money is taken from the better off & given to the needy. But, what if the wealth is being handed to someone who shows no signs of improvement?
It's time India asks its farmers to look after themselves, like the rest of the nation does. This may lead to short term pain, but will lead to huge gains in the long run. India may cease to depend so heavily on agriculture, and may turn to manufacturing, animal husbandry & other fields instead. Thereby making the amount of rainfall less relevant if not irrelevant. The money saved can be used for building infrastructure - which will create jobs, army welfare or the welfare of the differently abled people of the country.
Nay Sayers will be quick to ask me - if the farmers stop farming, what will you eat? My reply is simple. If doctors stop working, who will treat your illnesses? If media industry stops working who will give you your daily dose of news? If IT engineers stop working, who will make the software required to run apps/ large corporations? If teachers stop working, who will educate your kids? Everybody in this country is helping in building the nation, farmers are no different!