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Congress Eyes Rich Poll Harvest From Agrarian Distress in Madhya Pradesh

Madhya Pradesh, where the BJP has been in power since 2003, goes to the polls by the year-end and Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is under the opposition fire since the last year's widespread protests by farmers.


Updated:February 18, 2018, 7:15 PM IST
Congress Eyes Rich Poll Harvest From Agrarian Distress in Madhya Pradesh
Representational picture of the Congress Party's logo. (Getty Images)
Bhopal: Agrarian distress in Madhya Pradesh may emerge as a key election plank for the opposition Congress in the state which has seen 15,000 farmer suicides from 2004 to 2016. The ruling BJP, however, has maintained there is no cause for alarm as farmer income grew manifold during the past 14 years and the agriculture sector posted a robust growth.

Madhya Pradesh, where the BJP has been in power since 2003, goes to the polls by the year-end and Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is under the opposition fire since the last year's widespread protests by farmers. Reports of farmer suicides is a cause of concern for Chouhan, who used to take pride in his governments achievements in the field of agriculture.

Chouhan received the prestigious Krishi Karman Award five successive times in the recent years even when the Congress-led UPA was in power at the Centre. The award was instituted by the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare in 2010-11 to reward the best performing states in foodgrains and individual crops of rice, wheat, pulses and coarse cereals.

Statistics of farmer suicides in the state are disturbing. As per the State Crime Record Bureau (SCRB) data, over 15,000 farmers committed suicide between 2004 and 2016 in Madhya Pradesh. On the other hand, the opposition has claimed that 172 debt-ridden farmers committed suicide since the killing of six cultivators in police firing in Mandsaur, the epicentre of peasant agitation in the state, on June 6 last year.

"Since police firing killed six farmers in Mandsaur, 172 debt-ridden farmers have committed suicide in the state. The latest one took place on February 17 in Garhakota village of the Bundelkhand region. Over 20,000 farmers ended their lives during the BJP regime. This distress (in the farm sector) is visible because the government failed to turn its announcements into reality," said Ajay Singh, Leader of Opposition in Assembly and senior Congress legislator.

He said the prevailing agrarian distress will be one of the main campaign issues for his party in the Assembly elections. In the last eight months, as many as 34 farmers committed suicide in various districts of Bundelkhand, a backward region, Singh said. He said the Congress would continue to press the BJP government on the issue of farmer welfare.

According to the SCRB, the data source of the National Crime Record Bureau (NRRB), as many as 15,129 farmers and people associated with farming killed themselves in 13 years (up to 2016). The data of 2017 is yet to be released. While 1,638 agrarian suicides (farmers and persons related to agricultural activity) were recorded in 2004, the figures for subsequent years are 1,248 (2005), 1,375 (2006), 1,263 (2007), 1,379 (2008), 1,395 (2009), 1,237 (2010), 1,326 (2011), 1,172 (2012), 1,090 (2013), 826 (2014), 581 (2015) and 599 (2016), according to SCRB.

Of these, about 12,600 farmer suicides took place during the regime of Chouhan, who took over as chief minister in November 2005. Madhya Pradesh was on the boil in June last year after cultivators in various parts of the state held protests demanding a complete loan waiver and better remuneration for their produce.

State BJP spokesman Deepak Vijayvargiya, however, said there are different reasons for suicide by the people associated with farming.
"There are 50 lakh farmer families in Madhya Pradesh. The sad incidents of suicide are not caused by agrarian distress alone. There have been family and personal reasons behind such steps," he claimed.

Vijayvargiya hit out at the Congress for what he called was the "politicisation" of the issue of farmer suicides. "The Congress is only politicising the sorrow of these families. The truth is the income of farmers has gone up manifold during the past 14-years. The productivity has also gone up.

"Over the years, the state recorded an average growth of more than 20 percent in the agriculture sector," the BJP spokesman said.
After the Mandsaur incident, Chouhan had announced a slew of measures for farmer welfare, including the Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana, under which the model price of farm produce is deposited directly into the bank accounts of cultivators.

He also launched the 'Chief Minister Agriculture Productivity Scheme' under which an additional incentive of Rs 200 per quintal is provided on MSPs of wheat and paddy. Fear of further aggravation of farm distress looms large in the state, where the recent hailstorm damaged crops across 984 villages.
| Edited by: Tarun Bhardwaj
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