Monday, 30th October 2017

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First aid for farmers

The need of the hour is a series of long-term agricultural reforms in India.

  • Published 26.12.18, 9:35 AM
  • Updated 26.12.18, 9:35 AM
  • 3 mins read
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Farm loan waivers could only be a political move to further a party's vote bank PTI

The editorial, “Open season” (Dec 21), has pointed out that farm loan waivers can never be a lasting solution for farmers’ distress in India. However, one must admit that taking a hard-line approach towards farm loans while going soft on the huge bank-loan defaulters is not a good idea either. Moreover, at a time when farmers are being driven to commit suicide, waiving their huge debts are of paramount importance; it is as important as providing an injured patient with first aid.

The current agrarian crisis must be dealt with by following the prescription of the Swaminathan commission. In its report, the team headed by M.S. Swaminathan had said that “land reforms are necessary to address the basic issue of access to land for both crops and livestock”. It must also be noted that China, in spite of its huge population and size, has emerged strong owing to its land reforms. In India, however, such reforms have not yet been worked out properly. The recommendations of the Swaminathan commission should immediately be implemented. It will not only help tide over the agrarian crisis that has been resulting in the deaths of numerous farmers, but might also improve India’s abysmal ranking — 130 — in the United Nation’s human development index.

Sujit De,

Calcutta

Sir — Farmers comprise a significant section of the electorate in India. The Congress president, Rahul Gandhi, seems to have cleverly won them over by waiving loans of two lakh rupees each for farmers in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. A large number of farmers are extremely poor, and their overwhelming debts have forced them to take their own lives. It is the responsibility of the respective state governments to look after the farmers within their territory. However, in order to deal with the crisis, if the state dispensations shift the burden on to the common people by increasing taxes, the matter will only get more complicated.

The governments must ensure that the earnings from agricultural products go to the farmers instead of the middlemen. Political parties have been known to announce freebies, such as laptops and rice. But this is not a sustainable solution, and should be stopped. The Centre has already taken a stand against mass loan waivers for farmers. However, it is also not advisable to ignore rural distress and the mounting rage of farmers. We can only hope for a proper legal solution to the problem, one that benefits the farmers above all else.

Benu Kumar Bose,

Calcutta

Sir — The trend of competitive farm loan waivers may be good politics — particularly in view of the upcoming general elections — but is certainly bad economics.

A major problem with the loan waiver is that it will benefit only a small fraction of farmers. A Niti Aayog official revealed that in the poorer states, only 10-15 per cent of the farmers gain from the waivers, as the number of farmers who get institutional loans in such states is few.

Even the former governor of the Reserve Bank of India, Raghuram Rajan, has emphasized the need to abandon the practice of farm loan waivers, as they add to the burden of state finances. They also upset credit discipline as the beneficiaries often expect further waivers before elections. This leads to many more loans remaining unpaid. The need of the hour is a series of long-term agricultural reforms in India.

S.S. Paul,

Nadia

Sir — The indiscriminate waiving of agricultural loans does not augur well for the nation’s economy. While many do need such relief, other borrowers in rural areas who have the capacity to pay their dues will feel encouraged to not repay bank loans. They will assume that all political parties will waive loans before elections.

Political parties focus only on short-term electoral gains. If the leaders were sincere about addressing the farmers’ problems permanently and improving their economic condition, they would have chalked out more efficient welfare schemes. Moreover, many of the needy farmers remain deprived of the benefits of loan waivers. One needs to be earnest in one’s approach, especially when it comes to farmers.

Tapash Chatterjee,

Calcutta

Pipistrelle bat
Pipistrelle bat Shutterstock

Lost charm

Sir — One seldom encounters pipistrelle bats — called chamchika in Bengali — and other members of the bat family in cities any more. Like sparrows, they, too, must find the pollution unbearable. Further, modern architecture leaves no place for them to roost. Open spaces with big trees or dilapidated houses, suitable for their nesting, are also disappearing. Earlier, these creatures used to be an inextricable part of horror stories: they were either harbingers of paranormal activity or associates of the dreaded ghosts. Now, with their exit, ghost stories, too, have lost a part of their charm.

Paramananda Pal,

Calcutta