Aug 29, 2015

Patel reservation stir is a warning against the wanton destruction of agriculture

As I watched the huge crowd at the mega rally in Ahmedabad the other day demanding reservations for the Patel community, I was reminded of the 2013 report of a National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), which had examined the consumption expenditure data for 2011-12. Read it in conjunction with the Socio-Economic Caste Census 2011, and the reason behind such a massive turnout becomes quite clear.  

Whether Hardik Patel was backed by RSS or some disgruntled leaders from the ruling BJP is beside the point. What is being missed out in the debates and discussions on the latest mammoth Gujarat reservation protest is whether the massive turnout is a reflection of the worsening economic disparities. Since a majority of the patedars, who had come all the way to Ahmedabad to partake in the demonstration, were farmers, it also tells us how grave the agrarian distress is.   

Gujarat is not alone. In the name of economic growth, agriculture is being systematically killed all over the country. Over the years, agriculture has been deliberately starved of financial support, and now with their land being snatched away, farmers are looking for any and every possibility that provides them a glimmer of hope. With farm organizations failing to stand up to the continuing onslaught on agriculture, farmers are increasingly turning to reservation on caste basis which provides them a little bit of hope. In desperation looking for any economic security to latch on.

A majority of the Gurjars in Rajasthan and Jats in Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, who have also been agitating for reservation in government services, are also from the farming community. With farming becoming economically unviable, and with hardly any jobs available for the younger generation, seeking reservation on caste basis is the only plausible option. The demand for reservation is linked to economic depravity. It is no longer the OBC who are deprived but even the land owners feel outraged.

The socio economic census does bring out the growing inequalities. Accordingly, 67-crore people in the rural areas live on less than Rs 33 a day. Since a majority of these are farmers, the demise of farming is clearly visible. Such is the decline that more than 3.2-crore people have quit agriculture between 2007 and 2012, and trudged into the cities looking for menial jobs. The 2011 agricultural census of Maharashtra released only a few days back brings out the stark reality. More than 1 lakh farm families, which mean 5 lakh people, have moved out of agriculture in past five years.  State Agriculture Minister Eknath Khadse was quoted in a newspaper report saying land acquisition for industrialization, road widening and creation of new roads has eaten up agriculture land.

Those quitting agriculture are looking for jobs in the cities. Except for working as dehari mazdoor there are no jobs, even for the educated. Let me illustrate the precarious job market. A few days back, 75,000 people had applied for the job of 30 peons in the Directorate of Statistics and Economics in Chhattisgarh.  In July, 362, 685 people sat for a written examination for the posts of peons/guards in 58 departments in Madhya Pradesh.  Of these, 14,000 were either post-graduate, graduate or engineers. In the past 10 years, between 2005 and 2015, only 1.5-crore employment opportunities have been created at the national level against the requirement of 1.2-crore jobs every year.

The NSSO consumption expenditure data for 2011-12 brings out the economic disparities more clearly. Those spending more than Rs 6,383 per month in the urban centres and Rs 2,886 in the rural areas, fall among the top five percent of the country. They can surely feel delighted to fall in the same income bracket as Mukesh Ambani, Ratan Tata and Narayana Murthy. But I shudder to think of those who constitute the remaining 95 per cent of the country’s population. Just think and the existing economic depravity becomes too obvious. Churning out high growth figures every now and then will not be able to hide this for long.

Hardik Patel, despite his young age, has been able to keep his fingers rightly on the hitherto unfelt Gujarat’s pulse. Instead of ascribing any political motive, it is high time the focus shifts to addressing the shimmering discontent over economic inequality. Time is surely running out. You can ignore the warning at your own peril. # 

Source: Patel reservation stir is a warning against the wanton destruction of agriculture. Aug 29, 2015.


Vaanbhatt said...

Graduation or post graduation has become part of saksharta mission...else educated youth will never try for the posts meant for less educated people...industrial agricultural production and establishment of processing units in production catchment may help to generate income and employment opportunities...thus improve rural economy...

Rohit Dubey (Indore) said...

India's future seems to be in vein ...... Farmers dying.....Hi-tech flying......Technology can cook for us.... But can't feed us!