Amid a serpentine crowd thronging the streets of Jantar Mantar, with media houses clamouring for a posey coverage, the 80-year-old embattled ex-soldier was waiting for the silver lining yet to run into his way. Being put down by the system after rendering his youth to the country, he feels cheated.
“Mar Jawan mar kisan, na rahe nishan”, read a board dangling from his neck. In an attempt at essaying his silent struggle, the grey-haired has been carrying this whiteboard for a considerable stint now. His sullen eyes divulge a streak of gloominess, his heart wrenching at the central government’s nonchalance and its dictatorial attempt at curbing his say; his fight for a uniform pension plan.
Despite their relentless efforts, the retired army men are struggling hard to get hold of their desired end. The protest at Jantar Mantar which has crossed half a century of hour days is still finding it difficult to stand its ground. Adding insult to injury, the protesting army men were subjected to the government’s high-handedness today. A marching army of policemen had almost shaken their grounds, cracking down upon their cry for justice.
“The government didn’t even notify us of their plans. We were almost forced out of the camps. The police charged at us all of a sudden. They tried to dismantle the stage, they started pulling off posters and banners. They even took away the generators. I have been here for 70 days now. I have come here all the way from Uttarakhand and it seems that we have been enchained by the policies of the government,” said Baba Uday Singh Rawat.
On being asked about his views on independence, he lamented, “Why are we even celebrating independence day. Here we are not even getting our awaited share, we are being asked to stop our protests which is uncalled for.”
“Gore chale gaye, kale-gore chhor gaye“, reiterated Arindar Rana, who was awestruck at the government’s attitude. “Whatever happened today – without a prior notice- had shattered us for a while. We tried to stop them,” he added.
“Mubarakho aapne hindustan hila diya,” interrupted Rana’s colleague who congratulated him on his prevalence over the police attacks in the wee hours of the morning.
“We have lost faith in the government. I was browsing through the TV channels at my home and it is then I got to testify the ruthless attacks launched by the police on the protesting ex-army men. I feel sad today, we will be celebrating Independence Day today and this is what is happening to our ex-army men,” bemoaned Bgdr. R.M. Sharma.
“I gave you my youth…
You gave me my boot…”
The entire stretch of Jantar Mantar was reverberating with voices in unison demanding justice. Fleshing out the rebel inside them, the ex-servicemen promised to continue their struggle with utter austerity, thus expounding snippets of the freedom movement which fetched India its independence in the year 1947.
New Delhi, September 18, 2017 : Indian and International media is full of articles regarding large number of farmers in India committing suicide due to debt pressure.
Instead of going to the root of the problem and analyzing the reasons for this phenomenon, Indian politicians have come up with an absurd idea of farm loan waivers.
Majority of Indian farmers under debt trap own very little land. Farming on such small piece of land is not economically feasible. This sector is highly unorganized. Most of the time, no planning is involved in cultivation, irrigation and harvesting.
Middlemen exploit farmers by buying their produce at a very low price and then selling it at a premium to the end consumers.
The irony is that a large number of Indian politicians claim huge incomes from agriculture while farmers starve.
In the province of Madhya Pradesh 24 farmers committed suicide this year over crop loss and failure to repay loans but 18 of the 20 cabinet ministers of the state have shown ‘agriculture’ as their main source of huge incomes.
How come politicians are earning in Billions through farming while the real farmers are struggling to make both ends meet?
Let’s examine the issue in-depth.
The income earned from agricultural land is exempt from income tax under section 10 (1) of the Income Tax Act 1961. Politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen in India launder their money misusing the above income tax clause.
Normally, one cannot own agricultural land in India unless their forefathers have been agriculturists. Rich and influential people in the country obtain agriculturist certificates by ‘greasing the palms’ of the local land officials.
Farmers are not required to maintain detailed records in India. This provides an excellent loophole to pass off unaccounted and undeclared cash as agricultural income. It is done by showing fake sales cash receipts of agricultural produce, which like other certificates can be purchased in India through bribes.
Approximately 800,000 tax declarants in India state exorbitant amounts as agricultural incomes while filing their annual income tax returns.
This income, a whopping INR. 874 Lakh Crores was eight times more than the cumulative GDP of India for the financial years 2011 and 2012.
The average annual income declared by these assesses comes out to be anywhere between Rs. 30-80 Crores, on which they don’t pay any taxes.
It’s obvious that the aforesaid is not agricultural earning instead it’s declared as agricultural income by these assesses just to avoid paying taxes.
According to National Bank of Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) Delhi, with hardly any farming land has more farmers indulging in agriculture than Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and West Bengal provinces.
Delhi’s so called ‘farmers’ received Rs. 22,077 Crores in agricultural loans during 2009. In reality, these ‘self proclaimed farmers’ are the owners of big farm houses on the outskirts of the capital.
The authorities are well aware of this malpractice. The Tax Administration Reform Committee in its report in November 2014 said, “Agricultural income of non-agriculturists is being increasingly used as a conduit to avoid tax and for laundering funds, resulting in leakage to the tune of Crores in revenue annually”
The Finance Minister of India, Arun Jaitley on 26th April said that the government of India does not plan to tax the farm income.
It reveals that Indian politicians cutting across party lines indulge in this malpractice, 27% of the winning Lok Sabha M.P’s in 2014 elections have declared wealth of over Rs. 1 Crore, majority of which has been mentioned as agricultural income.
Indian opposition politicians blackmail the political party in power by indulging in spurious farmer agitations.
If there is a bumper crop then the opposition parties start shouting that prices have crashed due to over-supply in the market. When farming cultivation fails due to the vagaries of nature, then they start throwing statistics about farmers suicide.
A group of ‘self proclaimed’ farmers from Tamil Nadu province camped at Jantar Mantar in Delhi, the Indian capital city during March this year and indulged in cheap theatrics to draw attention to their protests.
The leader of this group, P. Ayyakannu is demanding that all farmers should be given loan waivers from banks and quoted highly inflated figures of farmers suicides in Tamil Nadu.
The Tamil Nadu government on 28th April, 2017 conveyed to the Supreme Court of India that no famers committed suicide in the state and clarified that a few, who took this extreme measure did it due to personal reasons.
Many farmers died due to old age and other medical issues. Ayyakannu clubbed all of them together to gather national as well as international attention.
Ayyakannu called off this whole play in Delhi on 23rd April after 40 days, when the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu came to meet these protestors.
He said that their group is giving a one month’s time-frame to the government in order to fulfill their demands otherwise, they would resume their protests in the national capital from May 25 on a bigger scale.
This impostor farmer leader Ayyakannu again came back to Delhi again on 16th July with his gang of ruffians to continue their drama.
Ayakannu as per media reports is not even a farmer, but a lawyer, who makes huge amounts of money through out of court settlements and personally owns hundreds of acres of land.
He and his bunch of hooligans all look quite healthy and well-fed. They don’t appear like destitute farmers as claimed by them.
Fake farmers like the aforementioned Ayyakannu are just the front faces of this façade in the name of farmers.
The remote controls of such characters remain in the hands of politicians, who use them for their narrow, selfish, corrupt agendas depending on the political situation at the state and national level.
The governments of Punjab, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan & U.P. provinces have waived off agricultural loans worth Billions. This has set up a very bad precedent for the rest of the country.
There are no ‘free lunches’ in this world. These half baked measures like loan waivers just make people lazy parasites.
The following steps would go a long way in helping the real distressed farmers;
Scientific soil and climate testing should be done across all farming regions in India. Farmers can then be educated about which crops to grow profitably, in how many cycles; depending on the soil conditions and climate of the region.
Implement agricultural reforms like farming co-operatives, where farmers having small agricultural land holdings can be encouraged to come together and pool their land plus resources together.
Crop storage infrastructure should be built and maintained in every village so, that farmer can store their surplus produce rather than sell it desperately at a low price.
Crop insurance must be compulsorily introduced all over the country wherein, farmers by paying a nominal amount need not bother about their crops getting destroyed through excessive rain or drought.
Organic farming needs to be encouraged instead of over-reliance on chemical fertilizers. The food waste produced by an entire village can be easily turned into biodegradable compost, through innovative schemes like Vermicomposting.
Vermicast can replace fertilizers in the agriculture fields. This would save money for the farmer and provide high quality chemical free crops.
The APMC’s (Agriculture Produce Marketing Committees) have created a coterie of middlemen, who along with the complicity of these committees, form a virtual barrier between the farmer and the consumer, paying the former a pittance for his produce and charging the latter exorbitant amounts for fruits and vegetables.
Vegetables are purchased at Rs. 2 or 3 a kg from farmers and then sold at 30 to 40 rupees per kg to urban consumers.
This setup has been going on for decades in every town and city of India. Millions of urban Indians pay artificially higher prices and majority of farmers are underpaid due to this flawed system.
The profits are made by middlemen, who do not pay taxes on these huge earnings. It is a common practice for them to store money in cash and not in banks.
These APMC’s must therefore be abolished immediately. Farmers should get direct access to the end consumer through the elimination of middlemen. This would ensure a better monetary return for farmers.
Private moneylenders in and around the villages charge a very high rate of interest from farmers. This unscrupulous sector should be bought under government regulation by bringing down the rate of interest to a rational level.
Government schools in villages are in shambles. They need to be upgraded so, that quality education at an affordable price is available to every child in the village.
This would uplift farmers children through educational empowerment. It will enable them to make a transition to non-agricultural professions in future and enhance their family earnings considerably.
The aforementioned steps would cost the government far less than what it is losing in the absurd loan waiver schemes, which anyways don’t help the poor marginal farmer at all.
As regard dealing with the fake farmers of India.
The solution entails; no farm loan waivers and bringing the agricultural income above a certain threshold under the tax bracket.
The aforesaid measures would prevent the fake farmers façade spreading rapidly all over the country, while resolving the agrarian crisis of India by assisting needy farmers of the country.
The author is a Master Degree holder in International Tourism & Leisure Studies from Netherlands and is based in China.
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