“BJP government leaving drought crisis to God’s mercy is very dangerous”

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Sitaram Yechury

The agriculture sector shrank by 1% in September-December 2015 quarter following a very tepid growth of 1.6% and 2% in the previous two quarters.

10 states are reeling under conditions of severe drought. There is a drinking water crisis with water levels in reservoirs down to 5% in parts of Maharashtra, while rains are still two months away.

For all the talk from Modi government about giving higher Minimum Support Prices, they were raised by a paltry 50 rupees per 100 kg on an average.

Wheat and rice procurement is happening only in five states while there has been no procurement of cotton so far. At an event recently, the MoS for Finance Jayant Sinha defended the tepid crop support price increases by saying they needed to be balanced against food price inflation “khaas kar chunav ke samay (especially at a time of elections).”

Everything for BJP is about the elections, even the lives of poor farmers struggling to survive across the country.

Leaving crisis to God’s mercy very dangerous

Today, a senior cabinet minister, Venkaiah Naidu made an unbelievably insensitive remark that the drought would end if “God wanted it to rain.”

The same minister had, a few days back, termed PM Modi as “God’s gift” to India. Leaving the country to nature’s vagaries cannot be serious policy and this callous statement tells us that the BJP government cares little about what can be done to help people in a drought. It also tells us that the lives of poor people don’t figure during formulation of policies by this government.

Venkaiah Naidu made an unbelievably insensitive remark that the drought would end if “God wanted it to rain.”

The same minister had, a few days back, termed PM Modi as “God’s gift” to India. Leaving the country to nature’s vagaries cannot be serious policy and this callous statement tells us that the BJP government cares little about what can be done to help people in a drought.

Sangh Parivar’s directive of cow slaughter and beef export bans, implemented by its governments in all BJP-ruled states, has hit the farmers really hard.

They can neither afford to feed their animals nor get rid of them in times of severe drought.

Collapse in prices for farmers’ produce

Farmers in Maharashtra are today selling cow milk at Rs 15-16 per litre, compared to Rs 25-26 a year ago. Onion is being sold in Maharashtra’s Lasalgaon market at less than Rs 7/kg, as against Rs 12 last March and Rs 45-plus in early-September.

This collapse in prices the farmer is getting for his produce suits the Modi government, to subdue the Wholesale Price Index into showing a deflationary trend. A nominal growth rate of 5%, against a target of 11.2% in FY 15-16, can only be dressed up to look like 7% when you have a deflation of around 2%. Who cares for the poor farmer and farm labourers suffering in this?

Window dressing of fiscal deficit

This is not all. Window dressing of fiscal deficit figures to fool foreign rating agencies is having serious consequences in rural India. While rural distress triggers migration, farmers’ suicides, and crippling indebtedness, the finance minister holds back Rs 12,000 crore of NREGA payments — nearly Rs 8,000 crore in wages — from last year.

This is again being done to ‘manage’ the headlines of achieving the fiscal deficit target. Leave alone the inhuman nature of this act of snatching money from the hands of poor villagers at this time, this withholding of rural jobs money is blatantly illegal as MGNREGA is an act of parliament.
The Courts have rightly asked the Central government, and especially the state governments of BJP-ruled Gujarat and Haryana, some very tough questions on their callous disregard for the drought situation in their respective states.

According to reports, the two BJP state governments had little to offer by way of explanation which earned them the ire of the judges earlier today.

This BJP government is doing everything to cause rural distress to millions of Indians, and doing nothing to alleviate their misery. Isn’t that really ‘anti-national’? Let’s not expect the BJP or its masters in the RSS to speak up.

The people of India will.

Sitaram Yechury is the General Secretary of the CPI-M. Views expressed here are the author’s own and jantakareporter.com doesn’t subscribe to them

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