Online Classes :- Current Affairs Part-3

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Bitter harvest: Maharashtra’s restive farmers represent a larger crisis that must be addressed

Following a six-day march from Nashik, thousands of farmers in Maharashtra yesterday camped near the seat of the state government to highlight their problems. This peaceful protest seeks to get the BJP-led state government to accept their demands, among which are unconditional waiver of loans and electricity bills and proper implementation of Forest Rights Act. The demands may be specific to Maharashtra but the underlying problems and their symptoms are visible across the country. India’s rural economy is in a crisis which needs to be addressed.

Employing a little less than half the work force, agriculture makes up around 15% of the economy. The size of the pie here is very small. Fragmentation of land holdings and low yields are long standing problems. To add to them a new one has arisen: climate change. So far, government’s stock response has been to announce higher support prices or waive loans. Recent experience shows that these responses are at best palliatives. Structural reforms are the need of the hour.

Over the last decade, agricultural investment has come largely from farmers while government has spent more on subsidies. Given the increasing risks faced by farmers and their limited resources, government should overturn its priorities and enhance investment. States in India often take the initiative. For example, Telangana government is working on a programme to provide farmers with working capital needs. This effort is crop neutral, transparent and leaves it to farmers to react to price signals. NDA should support such efforts and replicate them elsewhere.

Other areas where the Centre can play a supportive role is to enhance agricultural technology. Bt cotton was a success story of the last decade, but this one has seen revival of pests such as whitefly and pink bollworm. Introduction of newer technology is an urgent need. However, the most durable solution will be to improve growth rates in other sectors. It is imperative to get young people into jobs in factories as they are more productive and offer better returns. The problems besetting restive farmers in Maharashtra may need immediate relief measures. But their children need more job openings in industry and services.

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