Though the nationwide distress of the farmer was scarcely highlighted in the election manifestos of the political class generally, the second edition of the Bharatiya Janata Party government has teed off to a reassuring start.
Twenty-four hours after being sworn in, the chief significance of Friday’s announcement is that the PM-Kisan income-supoort scheme has been extended to all farmers. It will not, therefore, be a sectional benefit for a restricted target group and ought to fulfil the Benthamite doctrine of the “greatest good of the greatest number”.
And with that can be contextualised the decision to remove the ceiling of two hectares to be eligible for entitlement. Not wholly unrelated is the pension scheme for farmers, small traders and the self-employed segment. It is fervently to be hoped that there will be a marked reduction in suicides by the peasantry, which ought now to be the benchmark to evaluate the success of the cache of decisions that were taken at the first meeting of the Cabinet.
Though the BJP had stopped short of underlining farmers’ distress in its manifesto, the riveting attention to the issue at the meeting is also intended to ensure that it does not become a political handle to beat the government with. The farmer cannot be a political plaything, with successive dispensations remarkably insensitive to suicides.
The announcement on pension under the Pradhan Mantri Pension Yojana, will ensure a minimum package of Rs 3000 a month to “all eligible persons above 60”. The scheme will benefit more than 5 crore farmers across the country.
An estimated 14.5 crore farmers stand to benefit from the extension of the PM-Kisan scheme. Hitherto, it was confined to only small and marginal farmers with a land-holding of up to two hectares. Engaged in agricultural activity despite occupational hazards, this segment had accounted for 12.5 crore farmers across the country.
Clearly, the plan of action envisages an enormous increase in spending on social security. A crackdown on the activities of mahants in rural India, including West Bengal, is now direly imperative. Not the least because a large number of farmers have ended their lives when they failed to repay the loans.
As often as not, the pesticides that were used to protect the crop were consumed by the farmer. The waiver, announced by the Congress government more than a decade ago, has had little or no impact towards alleviating the agrarian crisis. In point of fact, those who grow the food have killed themselves.
This has been the tragedy of rural India over the past several years. It has taken a while for the government to wake up to the enormity of the crisis. The recurrent suicides have been a disgrace to the country.