An agricultural distress is staring at India, especially following three successive crop damage due to drought, hail and now an unusually warm winter which spells danger for the Rabi crop.

“The crop prospects are not good this season. Three consecutive crops have got spoilt – last year due to drought, then hail storm, and unseasonal rains. And this time we are preparing for another bad crop. The weather is not conducive, it is too warm,” Sudhir Panwar, president of the Kisan Jagriti Manch and Member Planning Commission in Uttar Pradesh, told thestatesman.com.

Panwar said the slight chill in the weather during Sankranti, January 14, could be beneficial for the wheat crop. He said if the El Nino effect continues, then the rabi crops – the crops sown in winter and harvested in the spring – will get spoilt. “The sowing (of crops) was also less this time, around 10 percent less,” added the farmers’ leader.

El Niño – or oscillation in the ocean-atmosphere system is a climate cycle in the Pacific Ocean that has a global impact on the weather patterns.

The opposition parties, including the Congress and the Left, have slammed the government over the agricultural distress that is looming over India. “There is rural distress everywhere, consumption is fallen, growth is flat, agriculture is suffering,” Congress leader Jairam Ramesh has said.

Communist Party of India-Marxist general secretary Sitaram Yechury told thestatesman.com, in remarks that are part of an interview: “Today our agriculture is in serious crisis. It is actually in distress.  The (Narendra) Modi government has itself projected that the coming year will be a negative year for agricultural growth. The peasantry is heavily indebted. This is leading to distress suicides.  If the annadata, so to speak, is committing suicide, then you can imagine what the state of the country is.”

According to Panwar, the Modi government is not serious about looking after farmers, leading to agricultural distress.

Panwar told thestatesman.com that the farmers are annoyed with the present government. “The reason is they (Modi government) have promised so many things – from irrigation for every field, 50 per cent profit on input cost. But nothing has transpired on the ground.”

“Modi has earlier promised income security for farmers, but nothing has happened so far,” Panwar said.

He said the previous United Progressive Alliance government “pumped in quite a lot of money – Rs.60,000 crore loan waiver, and NREGA. With this money there was some kind of economy with the farmers,” he said.

“But if you see the economy today, manufacturing is down, services sector is nowhere… you have  no drivers for economic growth, as people&’s purchasing capacity is down.  In this, the kisan (farmer) and labourer form a huge section – and to this section no money is being sent by the government. They have not been benefited by this government,”  he said.

According to Panwar, the government faced an indication of the anger of farmers during the Bihar elections, and the by-elections in other states, where the people voted against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

He feels that sensing the anger among the farmers, the Modi government is planning something for the farmers in the upcoming budget. “Let&’s see what they give,” he remarked.

He termed the BJP backing down on the promise on Minimum Support Price (of 50% profit over the cost input) as another election “jumla”. Panwar says the BJP government would not keep its promise on MSP as the “the core base of the BJP comprises the industrialists; the traders do not want this to be done as it goes against their interest”.

“They promised to set up a price stabilisation fund of Rs.500 crore. How will you stabilize prices across the country with Rs.500 crore? You can’t keep people hanging on to mere promises, they need to be delivered .”

He said the price that the farmer is getting for his produce “is less than what he was getting under the UPA”.

“But the cost is the same for the consumers;  the consumers do not get any benefit of the lowering of the MSP. The traders reap all the benefit,” he maintained.

He claimed that in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh farmers had last year “thrown their produce of potatoes on the roads because the money they received was not equivalent even to what they had paid the labourers for digging out the potatoes”.