THE HINDU EDITORIAL : JULY 20, 2018
THE HINDU EDITORIAL : JULY 20, 2018
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A vote of no confidence from the farmers
As the Lok Sabha debates the vote of no confidence today, representatives of farmers from across the country will be marching outside Parliament under the banner of All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), an umbrella body of 201 farmer organisations. Farmers have already passed a vote of no confidence against this government. Far from helping the farmers, this government has actually harmed them in their hour of crisis. This is a strong indictment, backed by solid evidence.
Here, it is not conclusive to give data on sluggish agricultural growth during this regime. Agricultural production suffered due to consecutive droughts for which it is unfair to blame the government. Nor can we use the data on farmer suicides to make a conclusive argument, as this government has tinkered so much, both with the definition of the term and data collection on it, that the data has been made unusable. Further, in any case, the data on farmer suicides has not been released for 15 months now.
Here are ten concrete, evidence-based, arguments on why the farmers of India express their vote of no confidence against this government.
First, this government has failed to act on any of its major election promises in 2014. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s manifesto promised nothing short of “highest priority to agricultural growth, increase in farmers income and rural development”. The government’s own Economic Survey 2018 has already conceded that farmers’ real income has “remained stagnant”, recording a 1.9% growth over four years. The concrete promise of higher public investment in agriculture did not materialise; in fact, it has declined in terms of its share of GDP.
The new farm insurance scheme, the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, has consumed thrice as much money as earlier schemes without either increasing the proportion of farmers who benefited from it, or giving a fair claim to the farmers. The promise of “welfare measures” — for farmers above 60, small farmers and farm labourers — was forgotten. The National Land Use Policy was never enacted. The Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act was not reformed. We don’t even have a ‘promises vs. delivery’ report card yet.
The MSP promise
Second, the Narendra Modi government actually reneged on its biggest promise of ensuring “50% profit over the cost of production” to the farmers. In February 2015, it filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court refusing to implement this promise on the ground that it will “distort” the agricultural market. As pressure from farmer organisations mounted, the government shifted the goalpost in the 2018 Budget by changing the definition of cost of production for the purpose of calculating the Minimum Support Price (MSP).
Third, not only did the government not fulfil its promise of “cost+50%” as MSP, it did not even maintain the routine annual increase in MSP. It began this by stopping the bonus over the MSPs announced by State governments. Over the nearly five-year period, the percentage increase in MSP by this government has actually been lower than the hike by both the previous governments.
Even this government’s much-publicised recent hike in MSP this year is lower than the year-on-year increase announced by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in 2008-09. The Modi government’s failure to implement the MSP that it announced forced the farmers into distress sale of Kharif and Rabi crops, amounting to at least ₹50,000 crore, in 2017-18.
Fourth, this government is guilty of perhaps the most lackadaisical response to nationwide droughts in 2014-15 and 2015-16. The central government’s response was limited to a revision in the eligibility cap for compensation and a routine raise in the compensation amount but also included cuts in contribution to States from the National Disaster Relief Fund. Despite repeated push from the Supreme Court, the government did not take any proactive steps in terms of either declaration of drought, improvement in ration delivery, or response to drinking water crisis specified in its own Manual for Drought Management. The Supreme Court had to reprimand the central government.
Choking the MGNREGS
Fifth, the Modi government’s lack of political will in implementing the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) has hit the rural poor in general and farm labourers in particular. After making a determined but unsuccessful attempt to dismantle the MGNREGS, the Modi government has choked this programme of adequate and timely funds and reneged on its legal obligation to provide timely wages and compensation for delayed payments.
Sixth, from imposing Minimum Export Price on potatoes in 2014 to importing sugar from Pakistan, this government has followed anti-farmer trade policies. Farm exports were systematically discouraged, leading to a decline in agricultural exports from $43 billion on 2013-14 to $33 billion in 2016-17. At the same time, import of lentil, chana, wheat, sugar and milk powder was allowed that led to a crash in crop prices.
Seventh, the Modi government’s ill-advised and shoddily implemented policy of demonetisation dealt a severe blow to agricultural markets, especially to fruit and vegetable markets, just when the farmers were recovering from the consecutive droughts. A sudden shrinking of cash led to demand contraction and fall in prices, whose effects are being felt even now.
Eighth, the government’s crude attempt to regulate livestock market by imposing ban on livestock movement and its protection to those guilty of lynching the suspected “cow smugglers” has disrupted livestock economic cycle, leading to loss of income on the one hand and aggravation of the widespread problem of animals destroying crops on the other.
Ninth, for the adivasi farmer, this is surely the most insensitive government. In a series of moves, this government has diluted the Forest Rights Act and various other environmental and forest conservation laws substantially in order to help the transfer of common land and water resources from the adivasis to industry.
And finally, the Modi government made not one but four attempts to bring an ordinance so as to nullify the historic Land Acquisition Act of 2013 and take away the few concessions that farmers had won after 120 years. Further, the government has effectively bypassed this law in the land acquisitions done by central agencies like the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and has also allowed State governments to nullify the provisions benefitting the land-owning farmers.
Notwithstanding its recent attempts at damage control, this government has justly acquired the reputation of being the most anti-farmer government in the history of independent India. Whatever the fate of the no-confidence motion in the Lok Sabha, the Modi government would find it hard to win a vote of confidence brought by the farmers.
b) Lynching & the law
The Supreme Court order calling for a special law to deal with lynching sends a strong message about the growing phenomenon of mob violence. From vigilante violence targeting cattle traders in the name of cow protection, it has taken a new turn. While the former was organised vigilantism, the recent spate of killings seemingly comprises impulsive and unplanned acts of violence, fuelled by rumour and panic-inducing social media messaging. Last year the apex court reminded the Centre and the States they cannot remain silent while vigilantes take the law into their own hands in the name of cow protection. It asked all States to appoint nodal officers in each district to curb mobs. While the incidence of lynching and violence committed by self-styled gau rakshaks appear to have reduced since then, the killing and attacks on those mistaken to be child-kidnappers have had a disquieting rise. The police say the circulation of videos and other messages about child-lifters through messaging apps is the main reason. In its 45-page order, the Supreme Court has significantly located lynching and vigilante violence in a socio-political framework linked to disrespect for an inclusive social order, rising intolerance and growing polarisation. There is an implicit indictment of the preponderant mood of the times when it says that “hate crimes as a product of intolerance, ideological dominance and prejudice ought not to be tolerated”.
Besides directing specific preventive, punitive and remedial measures, a three-judge Bench headed by the Chief Justice of India has mooted the idea of making lynching a separate offence. It says a special law would “instil a sense of fear” among those involved. Whether a special law is enough to ensure a greater level of deterrence is open to question, especially so when murder and mob violence are covered by existing provisions. But in sending this message out, the apex court has ensured that the issue cannot be brushed under the carpet and, ipso facto, has forced those who govern us to pay special attention towards curbing this madness. Any legislation though should be comprehensive, covering not only incidents of lynching, but also the extent to which criminality can be apportioned among rumour-mongers, instigators, principal offenders and those who are accessories to the crime. Whether it must penalise (and if so how) those who do nothing to stop such crimes or help bring the offenders to book, is another issue worth considering. The judgment places the onus on the law and order machinery to prevent and punish lynchings. But we must heed what it says on the role of bigotry, non-acceptance of plurality and diversity in creating an atmosphere where human beings are dehumanised: one in which freedom of speech, expression and personal choices are endangered.
Meaning: Walk along public roads in an organized procession as a form of protest.
Example: “Unemployed workers marched from Jarrow to London”
Meaning: A formal charge or accusation of a serious crime.
Example: “An indictment for conspiracy”
Synonyms: Charge, Accusation
Meaning: Lacking energy or alertness.
Example: “Alex woke late feeling tired and sluggish”
Synonyms: Inactive, Listless
Antonyms: Vigorous, Energetic
Meaning: A government, especially an authoritarian one.
Example: “Ideological opponents of the regime”
Synonyms: Government, Rule
Meaning: Following each other continuously.
Example: “Five consecutive months of serious decline”
Synonyms: Successive, Following
Meaning: Attempt to repair or improve something in a casual or desultory way.
Example: “He spent hours tinkering with the car”
Meaning: A public declaration of policy and aims, especially one issued before an election by a political party or candidate.
Example: “He may fudge key issues in the Labour manifesto”
Synonyms: Platform, Declaration
Meaning: Showing no activity; dull and sluggish.
Example: “A stagnant economy”
Synonyms: Inactive, Sluggish
Antonyms: Active, Vibrant
Meaning: Make (a bill or other proposal) law.
Example: “Legislation was enacted to attract international companies”
Synonyms: Pass, Approve
Meaning: A written statement confirmed by oath or affirmation, for use as evidence in court.
Example: “A former employee swore an affidavit relating to his claim for unfair dismissal”
Meaning: Organize and initiate (a campaign or other course of action).
Example: “The company had successfully mounted takeover bids”
Synonyms: Organize, Stage
12) Shifted the goalpost
Meaning: To change the rules while someone is trying to do something in order to make it more difficult for them.
Example: “We’d almost signed the contract when the other guys moved the goalposts and said they wanted more money”
Meaning: Lacking enthusiasm and determination; carelessly lazy.
Example: “A lackadaisical defence left Spurs adrift in the second half”
Synonyms: Careless, Lazy
Antonyms: Enthusiastic, Excited
Meaning: (Of a person or action) creating or controlling a situation rather than just responding to it after it has happened.
Example: “Employers must take a proactive approach to equal pay”
Meaning: A formal expression of disapproval.
Example: “The golfer received a reprimand for a breach of rules”
Synonyms: Rebuke, Reproof
Antonyms: Praise, Commendation
Meaning: Take (a machine or structure) to pieces.
Example: “The engines were dismantled and the bits piled into a heap”
Synonyms: Deconstruct, Disassemble
Antonyms: Assemble, Build
Meaning: An act or course of action to which a person is morally or legally bound; a duty or commitment.
Example: “I have an obligation to look after her”
Synonyms: Duty, Commitment
Meaning: (Of a group of people) kill (someone) for an alleged offence without a legal trial, especially by hanging.
Example: “Her father had been lynched by whites”
Synonyms: Hang, Execute
Meaning: The state of becoming worse or more serious; exacerbation.
Example: “The patient experienced an aggravation of symptoms”
Synonyms: Worsen, Exacerbate
Antonyms: Alleviate, Improve
Meaning: A thing that is granted, especially in response to demands.
Example: “The government was unwilling to make any further concessions”
Synonyms: Compromise, Adjustment
Meaning: The beliefs or opinions that are generally held about someone or something.
Example: “His reputation was tarnished by allegations of bribery”
Meaning: A large crowd of people, especially one that is disorderly and intent on causing trouble or violence.
Example: “A mob of protesters”
Synonyms: Crowd, Horde
Meaning: A member of a self-appointed group of citizens who undertake law enforcement in their community without legal authority, typically because the legal agencies are thought to be inadequate.
Meaning: A large number of similar things coming in quick succession.
Example: “A spate of attacks on holidaymakers”
Synonyms: Series, Succession
Meaning: Acting or done without forethought.
Example: “They’d married as impulsive teenagers”
Synonyms: Impetuous, Spontaneous
Antonyms: Cautious, Premeditated
Meaning: The top or highest part of something, especially one forming a point.
Example: “The apex of the roof”
Synonyms: Tip, Peak
Meaning: Restrain or keep in check.
Example: “She promised she would curb her temper”
Synonyms: Restrain, Repress
Meaning: A formal charge or accusation of a serious crime.
Example: “An indictment for conspiracy”
Synonyms: Charge, Accusation
Meaning: Predominant in influence, number, or importance.
Example: “The preponderant influence of the US within the alliance”
Synonyms: Dominant, Predominant
Meaning: Based on or relating to a system of ideas and ideals, especially concerning economic or political theory and policy.
Example: “The ideological struggle that underpinned the cold war”
Meaning: Give rise to prejudice in (someone); make biased.
Example: “The statement might prejudice the jury”
Synonyms: Bias, Influence
Meaning: Inflicting or intended as punishment.
Example: “He called for punitive measures against the Eastern bloc”
Synonyms: Penal, Disciplinary
Meaning: Raise (a question or topic) for discussion; suggest (an idea or possibility).
Example: “The scheme was first mooted last October”
Synonyms: Raise, Mention
Meaning: The action of discouraging an action or event through instilling doubt or fear of the consequences.
Example: “Nuclear missiles remain the main deterrence against possible aggression”
35) Ipso facto
Meaning: By that very fact or act.
Example: “The enemy of one’s enemy may be ipso facto a friend”
Meaning: Of large content or scope; wide-ranging.
Example: “A comprehensive collection of photographs”
Synonyms: Inclusive, Complete
Antonyms: Partial, Selective
Meaning: A person who spreads rumours.
Meaning: A person who brings about or initiates something.
Example: “He was not the instigator of the incident”
Synonyms: Initiator, Motivator
Meaning: Subject to a penalty or punishment.
Example: “High-spending councils will be penalized”
Synonyms: Punish, Disciple
Meaning: Intolerance towards those who hold different opinions from oneself.
Example: “The difficulties of combating prejudice and bigotry”
Synonyms: Prejudice, Bias
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