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Cruel Joke: How governments have continually mocked Indian farmers

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By Meghna

The dependence of any society on agriculture is an undeniable fact. Regardless of this, the Indian farmer is at the fringes of economic development and barely receives enough economic support from the government, despite being the chief source of production and chief supplier of raw materials. Year after year, the farmers are subjected to mockery in the name of compensation of losses.

Recently, the PDP-BJP alliance government of Jammu and Kashmir derided the woes of the farmers by doling out meager amounts ranging from Rs.47- Rs.378, as compensation to the peasants whose crops were destroyed in the 2014 floods. This is not the first time the farmers have received such a puny sum of money as compensation.

In 2013, the farmers of Vidarbha region of Maharashtra got pittance as compensation despite the chief minister announcing Rs 2,000 crores as aid for the flood hit regions of Vidarbha, a report in The Hindu had revealed. The farmers incurred losses amounting to Rs 15,000 during the monsoon floods of 2013, but received meager amounts in the range of Rs 80-100 from the government as compensation.

Year after year, the farmers incur such losses and the government rubs salt on their wounds. The compensation provided by the government can barely aid the farmer and their families in providing themselves one day’s meal.

There have also been cases where farmers of Agra got cheques in the name of deceased farmers.

The scanty amounts have time and again made the farmers take harsh steps, like in Haryana, in 2015, a farmer committed suicide owing to the scanty amount he received as compensation. More and more families of farmers are being pushed towards destitution by the government.

This year, in Mathura, some farmers who had incurred losses amounting to Rs. 80,000, owing to the off season rains in March, received cheques worth Rs. 73, Rs. 186 and Rs. 750, as per a report.

With the passage of time, such instances of bizarre distribution of relief funds to the farmers have magnified in frequency and magnitude. A recent report published by DNA exposed the Haryana Government has giving away amounts as low as Re 1, Rs. 2 and Rs. 3 to the farmers of Mewat as compensation for the crops they lost during the 2014 hailstorms.

When the forces of nature act, there is nothing the poor farmer can do. Agriculture being the sustenance of everyone, the government should take some actions to pull the farmers from the depths of poverty.

Various governments have come and gone, but the condition of the poor Indian farmer has remained unchanged.

In light of such abysmal compensation sums being awarded, why would anyone want to become a farmer in India?

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Return to Jammu- A Novel About a Journey

The author has superbly captured the life of the kid in a cantonment, growing up with two sisters, his mother's struggle to run the house on a tight budget and his father, a happy-go-lucky man, who avoids the responsibilities of a good husband.

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He describes vividly how the family shifts to Jammu on his father's transfer, giving even the minutest details of their belongings, and of their journey to Jammu via Pathankot.
Sanasar, Jammu and Kasmir- wikimedia commons

This is the engrossing tale of Balan, a kid from South India who grows up in the towns of Punjab, Jammu and Haryana. It captures the eventful journey of Balan’s childhood, his schooling, and the friends he makes and loses due to transfers of his father, serving in the Indian Army.

“Return to Jammu” is a first-person narration and with the timelines, places and real-life personalities and events, the reader gets a feeling that it is an autobiographical novel. The author clarifies that all characters and the story per se are fictional but confesses to borrowing liberally from many episodes of his childhood in telling the story.

“If you happen to be acquainted with me enough to perceive a passing resemblance of me in Balan, you would be right; and yet if you find the resemblance rather tenuous and liberally adulterated, you will be equally right too,” says the author in a preliminary note.

Settled in Jammu, Balan is admitted into grade two, though just four years and seven months old. He remains younger and tinier than his peer group all through his schooling and even in college.
V. Raghunathan-Author of the book Return to Jammu, wikimedia commons

Balan, son of a junior commissioned officer hailing from Kerala and having Tamilian roots, is born in the Ambala cantonment in 1954. He narrates his story even before his birth, relying on family tellings.

The author has superbly captured the life of the kid in a cantonment, growing up with two sisters, his mother’s struggle to run the house on a tight budget and his father, a happy-go-lucky man, who avoids the responsibilities of a good husband.

He describes vividly how the family shifts to Jammu on his father’s transfer, giving even the minutest details of their belongings, and of their journey to Jammu via Pathankot.

Settled in Jammu, Balan is admitted into grade two, though just four years and seven months old. He remains younger and tinier than his peer group all through his schooling and even in college. Because of his diminutive size, he is saddled with sobriquets like pocket edition, Lilliputian and Madrasi, and sees his self-esteem falling dangerously.

He describes vividly how the family shifts to Jammu on his father's transfer, giving even the minutest details of their belongings, and of their journey to Jammu via Pathankot.
Jammu and Kashmir Map, wikimedia commons

It’s at Satwari near Jammu that he develops childhood friendship with many, most importantly with Jeevan Asha or Jeesha, who was two years older and also taller than him. Soon, however, Balan’s father is again transferred to Ambala and he is separated from his friends, especially Jeesha. He writes letters to his friends and receives responses from all, except Jeesha.

Overcoming all odds and with hard work, Balan completes his studies and joins the State Bank of India. Now a confident young man, he works hard and finally makes it to the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad. (It was at IIM, Ahmedabad, that the author taught finance.)

Also Read: 70 years after Independence power reaches Elephanta Isle near Mumbai 

There he comes across a girl called Jasmine Pundith. He believes she is his good old buddy Jeesha. Bu she shows no sign of recognition and when he tries to remind her about their childhood friendship, Jasmine tells him that she is a citizen of the US and has no link with Jammu.

Convinced that she is none other than Jeesha, Balan travels to Delhi to find out more about her family. He even returns to Jammu, where he meets her brother Niranjan. What Balan comes to know from him forms the climax of the story.

The book is worth a read also for the author’s eye for detail, whether it is canal system of Jammu, the picturesque Kashmir valley, especially Uri, the pilgrimage to Vaishno Devi, or a visit by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. (IANS)