Except farmers are not turning to violence. They haven't gone berserk damaging public property. The more than 30,000 protesters who have marched 180 kms from Nashik to Mumbai have been totally peaceful and dignified.
I still believe the possibility of farmers turning to Naxalism is remote. But could Nana's prophetic words - the beginning of a 'revolution' - really turn into a dark and tragic reality? If so, can our politicians and civil society act decisively now to better the lives of farmers?
Several of their demands are inter-related. Key among them is the right to access, manage and govern forest land and resources as allowed under the Forest Rights Act. Over 11 years after it became a law in 2006, as this report points out, Maharashtra is Number One in recognising these rights. However, only 15% of these rights have been conferred in Maharashtra. The national average of a mere 3%, in comparison, shows how poorly India fares when it comes to empowering Adivasis or tribals.
The other immediate concern for farmers is about the increasing input costs of their produce. This has been an issue which all governments have failed to address adequately.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the election campaign in 2014 had promised farmers that he would ensure that the Minimum Support Price (MSP) was 50% above the cost of agricultural produce, as also recommended by the M.S. Swaminathan Committee.
The argument that this is a politically-motivated movement is not false. It is led by the Left. But to believe that only a political call has galvanised so many farmers and Adivasis would be giving too much clout to the Left which isn't true on the ground. Moreover, while in the opposition in Maharashtra, the BJP led farmer protests and brought about positive change. So it hardly matters which political party is leading this. The issue at hand is whether or not farmer grievances are valid.
But what's critical to remember is that the agrarian crisis is not the making of one government. Poor strategies and policies over decades have added up and the eruptions we see every now and then reflect just that.
(Tejas Mehta is former Bureau Chief, NDTV 24x7 and is now a political commentator.)
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.
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