Oct 22, 2009

PMK to demand a Farmers Income Commission in Tamil Nadu

FOR FARMERS: Sowmiya Anbumani, president, Pasumai Thayagam, having a word with Devinder Sharma, agricultural scientist, at a seminar in Chennai on Tuesday. S. Ramadoss, PMK founder, is in the picture. (The Hindu, Oct 21, 2009)

At last, a political big wig has given a call for direct income support for farmers. Mr S Ramdoss, who heads the PMK party in Tamil Nadu, on Tuesday said that he would meet the Chief Minister M Karunanidhi within the next week to bring to his notice the livelihood issues affecting farmers, and also to impress upon him the need to set up a Farmers Income Commission on line with the 6th Pay Commission.

I think this is a historic initiative. A small step for Mr Ramdoss as far as his political career is concerned, but a giant leap for the farming community. For decades now, Indian farmers have been systematically looted, not only by the middlemen and money-lenders but also by the agricultural scientists, input suppliers like seed, fertiliser and seed companies, and of course by the government through the unjust procurement prices. It is time that the farmers throw away the yoke of economic slavery and emerge out into a new age of economic freedom.

For me personally, it too was in many ways a historic event. For some years now, I have been asking for direct income support for farmers. I am happy that Mr Ramdoss has realised the political importance of what I have been calling for. I srongly feel that it is the only way to bail out the beleaguered farming community. It is also the correct pathway to pull farmers out of the cycle of indebtedness that he is reeling under, and to show him the bright future ahead. You will agree, farmers of India deserve to be at least equated with a chaprasi in the government. This is the least we can do for the country's annadata.

Why chaprasi, you will say? Well, because an ungrateful nation is not even willing to pay him one quarter of what it pays to a chaprasi. To ask the policy makers to provide an average farmer a monthly income equivalent to that of a clerk in the government would be asking for too much. I am therefore keen that at least a beginning be made, even if that means bringing the farmer at par with a government chaprasi.

A government chaprasi (peon) will receive a monthly income of Rs 15,000 under the 6th pay Commission. The average monthly income of the Indian farmer was worked out at Rs 2,115 in 2003-04 by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO). That was the last time the NSSO computed the farm income. It (compilation of farm income) was stopped thereafter probably because the government felt too embarrassed by the existing ground realities.

I have often said that Rs 2000 is what I pay to my maid servant who comes to clean my house and wash the utensils twice a day. She works one hour and walks away with Rs 2000 a month. The poor farmer works 24x7 with his family of five members and yet is unable to earn more than what a maid servant makes in one hour of daily work. This is how we treat our farmers, our annadata.

I feel like hanging my head in shame.

Anyway, here is the news report:

Ramadoss to lead delegation of farmers to meet Karunanidhi
Special Correspondent

To raise their livelihood issues and press for a solution

CHENNAI: Agreeing to the majority view expressed at a conference on agrarian issues here, Pattali Makkal Katchi leader S. Ramadoss said that he would seek an appointment with Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi for “next week” to bring to his notice the livelihood issues of farmers.

Responding to suggestions from various farmers’ associations, he agreed the suggestion that the government be made aware of the concerns of the farmers should be taken up first.

Representatives of farmer’s bodies said rising input costs, monopoly of seed companies, environmental degradation, lop-sided government priorities and vagaries of monsoon had made agriculture unattractive.

Dr. Ramadoss said all associations of agriculturists should come together and talk to the Chief Minister on the issues they faced. “Let us talk to him in a manner that he will understand. If any organisation does not come forward to join us, then it will mean that they are staying away for political reasons. But, it has to be remembered that even the politician is fed by the farmer.”

Dr. Ramadoss said non-governmental organisations such as the Pasumai Thayagam, in association with others and the PMK, were studying farmers’ issues for long. The draft Manifesto for Farmers in Tamil Nadu was a product of the study. Suggestions made at the conference on Farmers’ Income Commission would be incorporated and circulated before a final draft was prepared. This would be presented to the government.

Dr. Ramadoss said the PMK would not rest with merely approaching the Chief Minister. It would review the situation and push for a solution to issues that were raised in the manifesto.

Agricultural scientist Devinder Sharma said producing more was not the solution to the crisis. A new phenomenon in India was that some farmers, who ended up producing more, saw prices drop drastically and were either stuck with the stock or sold it at rock-bottom prices. Some farmer suicides had resulted from this.

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