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Is farmer Gajendra Singh Rajput’s death in vain? Time for Indian politicos to stop bickering and start listening

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By Gaurav Sharma

Every 30 minutes in India, a farmer takes his own life. With more than 60 per cent of the country, directly or indirectly dependant on agriculture, this should be a major cause of concern.

Alas, the problem has persisted, if not been exacerbated over the years.

Scores of farmers have succumbed to the perilous hands of death, in utter helplessness to the droughts that have crumpled their produce, the burden of colossal debts that have hunched their poor backs into resignation.

But more so, the farmers have perished to the menace of suicide because of the callous attitude of our politicians, who seem to be only interested in scoring brownie points, to draw political mileage from their fall.

There has been a significant spurt of around 26 per cent in the number of farmer suicides from last year’s death toll of 1109 .

In the latest episode of horror, Gajendra Singh Rajput, a farmer from Rajasthan’s Dausa district  hanged himself from a tree at Aam Aadmi Party’s rally at Jantar Mantar.

Perhaps Gajendra had a premonition that the address would be a false rhetoric of support?

No sooner did the suicide happen, than the blame-game erupted among the political parties.

While blaming the AAP for the death, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra asked, “Why didn’t the AAP leaders stop the farmer from committing suicide?”

The AAP, however, shifted the onus on the Delhi Police, with Arvind Kejriwal saying, “We kept asking the police to bring him down. Police may not be in our control but at least there should be a semblance of humanity among them. I am rushing to the hospital with Manish Sisodia.”

Later in the day, in an expression of ‘grief and sympathy’, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, Ajay Maken and Sachin Pilot also visited the hospital.

On his part, the Congress scion attacked the BJP for its anti-farmer policies saying, “I just want to tell the farmers we are with them and they should not feel scared at all. It is a very sad incident and so I have not come here to do politics. All this has happened because of the ordinance that has been brought by the BJP government.”

Eventually, a ‘probe’–the usual futile tactic in all such farmer suicide cases–was announced by Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

The passing of the buck from the BJP to the AAP to the Congress to the Police is like a merry-go round of avoiding responsibility, a first-aid measure to rid the conscience of the guilt that the death of the farmer entails on the souls of each party.

It only highlights the complicity of all political parties in the ‘murder’ of the farmer. The hands of the politicians are awash with the blood of the farmers.

The lack of seriousness with which politicians treat the lives of the farmers can be seen quite clearly when a leader like Akhilesh Yadav issues them compensation cheques which later bounce. Citing technical errors do not stem the rot. They only help in casting a dubious light on the intentions and the motives of such leaders.

As if that were not enough, our leaders constantly cry hoarse over the suicide figures that are released by the government data. Recently, Maharashtra’s Union agriculture minister Radhamohan Singh drew much flak from the media after he commented that only three farmers had committed suicide in the state.

The farmer suicides have become so ubiquitous that the situation has now snowballed into an epidemic. The green revolution, the genetically modified seeds or “miracle crops” had their moments for several years before they became counter-productive.

As the crop productivity declined and farmers became more indebted, they started taking their lives with the very pesticide that once protected their crops.

In response, the government announced relief packages and debt-waivers which have only been ineffective, short-sighted, misdirected and flawed because of the simple fact that they do not focus on productivity, but rather on loans and credit.

Instead of bickering and quarreling over who is responsible for the deaths, it would be wise for our leaders to understand that each one of us is directly or indirectly involved with the plight of the farmers.

It is but too obvious that it is only our ignorant arrogance that forces the farmers to take such a drastic step. Only when we accept our massive shortcomings in addressing such a vital issue, will we move towards taking cooperative remedial measures.

Even earlier today, when thousands of farmers gathered at the Jantar Mantar to express their concern and anger over the land bill, only a few were aware of the details. In their heart, only one fear was eating them out – what will they do when their piece of land, the only means to their livelihood–is acquired by the government?

While BJP says that the AAP rally was an attempt to divert attention from their internal problems, Gopal Rai, AAP minister, said that the “Delhi government won’t leave the farmers orphaned, like Modi government has.”

The war continues, but Gajendra’s suicide is a reminder that the farmers will be able to lead a dignified life only when the political parties stop treating them as vote banks to maximize political gains.

In essence, the root cause of farmer suicides is the failure to listen.

  • Not so much the failure to listen but the lack of a proactive attitude. Our politicians do have ears but the problem lies in the fact that they do not act.

    Nevertheless a hard-hitting piece.

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Widespread Agricultural Distress: Hyderabad Social Entrepreneur Uses Big Data To Change Farmers’ Lives

The app, which provides all farming-related information and communication in Telugu on a single platform, is significantly reducing the time and cost of cultivation for a farmer in real time.

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The startup, which can sustain for next six months on its own, is receiving proposals from different investment companies and Naveen says he will go with whoever is close to his idea. Pixabay

At a time of widespread agricultural distress caused by successive droughts, unremunerative farming and debt-trapped rural economies, a young man with his mobile app is showing how change can be brought in the life of farmers at the grassroot level.

In 2016, V. Naveen Kumar, who had no personal knowledge of agriculture, was so moved by the suicide of a farmer in a village in his native Warangal district of Telangana that for the next three months he ran around like a man possessed, meeting farmers to understand their problems. He interacted with agri-entrepreneurs and other stakeholders to find if there is a way he can bring some change in the lives of the financially besieged farmers.

Today, over 1.24 lakh farmers in Telugu-speaking states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh use his mobile app NaPanta to avail a host of services, all free of cost. And this MBA degree holder is satisfied that he is contributing his mite to bring some change in the way they practise agriculture.

NaPanta, which was started in June 2017, saw, surprisingly, thousands of farmers download the app. The launch of the pocket-friendly Reliance Jio and the boom in use of WhatsApp brought more people on the platform.

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While the information on app will clear regular doubts of farmers, for specific doubts a farmer can ask questions to a panel which includes agriculture scientist and experts.
Pixabay

The app, which provides all farming-related information and communication in Telugu on a single platform, is significantly reducing the time and cost of cultivation for a farmer in real time.

“I am confident that if farmers follow my platform, they will be able to save 20 per cent on expenditure and get 10 per cent extra yield. We can make 30 per cent difference,” V. Naveen Kumar, Founder and Managing Director, NaPanta, told IANS.

While the country has many apps to help farmers, there is no single app covering the entire gamut of agriculture activity ranging from selection of crops to locate the market offering highest price for their produce. From advisory services and weather information to market prices and e-commerce, the digital platform offers the comprehensive agri eco-system.

The app has tools like crop expenditure (which helps farmers track their expenses in an organized manner), crop protection, weekly agro advisory, agri forum, market price, agri e-commerce, crop insurance, weather, food processing technologies, and soil testing information.

A farmer can also buy or rent an agri-equipment as per the requirements of his crop cycle and can also sell his produce for the highest price without any middleman.

The app also allows farmers to access real-time and dynamic information pertaining to daily market prices of 300 agri-commodities across over 3,500 markets, along with three-year price trend.

Currently available in Telugu and English, NaPanta App provides complete pest and disease management details, covering 90 crops and with suggestions about 3,000 pesticide products.

Naveen Kumar, who earlier worked as a Credit Relationship Manager in ICICI Bank and later as Credit Risk Manager with HDFC Bank before co-founding apnaloanbazaar.com, a retail loan distribution services portal, says he is trying to build core competence among the farmers.

According to him, for all their requirements, small and marginal farmers depend on third parties like distributors of the companies.

“With no knowledge of agriculture practices and requirements of a particular farmer, they try to push their products for some extra profit and as a result the farmers either suffer crop losses or end up incurring huge expenditure.”

With agriculture extension officers of the government more focused on clerical related activities rather than extending actual help, he believes there is a huge gap between farmers and the government initiated activity.

“Farming is not depending on a single advisory. It is a combination of various services. We identified all that a farmer needs in day to day life and ensured that he has easy access to the advisory so that whenever he gets a doubt, he can get it cleared then and there,” he said.

Naveen said several states including Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu were showing interest in the platform. The app will be available in Hindi and Tamil in June-July this year. “If everything goes well in next 3 to 5 years, we will have our presence in 7-9 states,” said Naveen, who heads a five-member team.

While the information on app will clear regular doubts of farmers, for specific doubts a farmer can ask questions to a panel which includes agriculture scientist and experts.

NaPanta, an incubatee of International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) also gets the institute’s help in business activity, reaching the farmers and engagement with agri-input companies.

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“With no knowledge of agriculture practices and requirements of a particular farmer, they try to push their products for some extra profit and as a result the farmers either suffer crop losses or end up incurring huge expenditure.” Pixabay

The startup, which can sustain for next six months on its own, is receiving proposals from different investment companies and Naveen says he will go with whoever is close to his idea.

With huge amount of data being generated on the digital platform, Naveen embarked on building big-data architecture with crowd-sourcing information. It is building database with information on major crops in a particular area, major insects which affect a crop, cropping system, sequential cropping model, pesticides and where the farmers sell their produce.

Also Read: Strict Conservation Laws Result in Eviction of Hundreds of Indigenous Karen People in Thailand

He is confident that this data will be a goldmine in the coming years.

“This kind of crowd-sourcing information is not available in the agriculture sector in India. We are getting information from actual farmers and not third parties.” (IANS)