THE TRAGIC TREND OF AGRICULTURE I recently attended a talk by Mr. P.Sainath, a very popular journalist who won the Ramon Magsasay Award recently. The talk was very very inspiring and thought-provoking. Some of the incidents that he quoted brought tears in me. It is disgusting to know that none of the so-called national newspapers have a full-time correspondent for Agriculture, while they have eight to ten correspondents for Business and Sports! Hardly any daily has a suppliment totally devoted for agriculture too. Mr.Sainath has analysed many facts very deeply and has a fund of facts and figures on his finger steps, which are shocking. His anguish that the present day media, except for one or two newspapers and TV channels, is totally not focusing on the serious issues but only on the so-called ‘happening’ issues is very true. How many of us are well-informed about the serious issue of the increasing number of farmer suicides? Even the news item of farmer suicides is printed in some inconspicuous corner of the newspaper and most of us ignore it as a routine. It was shocking to know that in the last decade, 1,60,000 farmers have committed suicide in India, the highest ever in any country. What an achievement! And the saddest part of this revelation was that this figure does not include lakhs of suicides, which have been excluded on frivolous grounds like – women, who do not own land, sons of farmers who do not own land, dalits and tribals, who do not own land and so on, though all these are also suicides committed on account of the sorry state of agriculture! If such suicides are included, the list will be much longer. Mr.Sainath was full of emotions as he narrated the shameful instance of how the serious issue of thousands of cotton farmer suicides in Vidharbha region alone attracted the attention of just 8-10 journalists, while at the same time, the Lakme Fashion Week celebrated in Mumbai attracted nearly six hundred full-time journalists, besides hundreds of local journalists. And the worst part was that the theme of the Lakme Fashion Week was cotton and not one journalist felt it relevant to compare the paradoxical situations in two places so closely. How then, can you trust the mainstream media? Is Lakme Fashion Week more relevant to us than the death of thousands of farmers? It is a shame on a nation which is full of billionaires and millionaires and there is no dearth for wealth, to let the hapless farmers who dole out the food on our plates, die out of hunger and poverty. We boast of our achievements in the IT and BT industries and are proud of our scientists, sportspersons and businessmen, who are marking a permanent place on the global map for India. But we are blind and deaf to the cries of the seventy percent of our population. We do not realize that we cannot eat IT, BT or sports and food is the basic necessity. If all the farmers are migrating to cities as coolies or killing themselves, who is going to do the dirty job of growing food grains to fill our hunger? India, which once boasted of self-sufficiency in food and even used to export food grains, today is busy ignoring all the farmers, without realizing the slow onslaught of selfish, greedy multi-nationals on this sector too! In the name of contract farming and corporate farming, thousands of poor farmers are being uprooted from their simple lifestyles, where at least they could take care of their own families in peace. Acres and acres of land are being gobbled up my multi-national companies in the name of ‘development’ of all sorts. Even the land used for farming is being raped and spoilt with chemicals. Just in a few years after farmers shifted from growing food grains to growing cash crops, their land has become so useful for any farming activity. Farmers who were wooed to shift from food grains to Vanilla, because Vanilla then fetched them Rs.4800/- per k.g., are today left high and dry with stretches of useless land, loads of debts and misery, as Vanilla today fetches them just Rs.48/- per kg. and there is absolutely very limited demand for Vanilla in the local market! These farmers led contented lives, taking care of the needs of their families just a few years ago. This is just one example of how the innocent farmers are being cheated by the society. What does development mean? How can you boast of development when nearly 70 percent of the population is getting immersed in a sea of problems and 8-10% of the population is enjoying more than 90% of the national wealth? Just the 4 billionaires of India are sharing nearly 40% of the GDP! Though India ranks 3rd or 4th in the list of billionaires by number, Indian billionaires rank number two in the amount of wealth that they own!! How very proud we should be! All this shows that the economy is run not by the Government or the people but by multi-national companies! What difference does it make whether one East India Co. ruled India or a bunch of multi-national companies rule the entire world? True the corporate world is giving employment to thousands of urban youth and paying them very good salaries, which are upgrading the lives of thousands of middle class families. But the damage being done by them to the eco-system, culture, rural sector and agriculture cannot be equated to this benefit. All the policies of the different Governments are oriented only to please these companies and their employees, without considering the welfare of the majority of the others. It is high time we realize the value of agriculture and farmers for our very existence and proceed in the right direction, lest we may be left with a lot of wealth but nothing to eat! This is but the story of the man who thought he could live happily if granted the wish of turning everything that he touched into gold!