On this New Year’s Eve, I am starting a series called Bridging Divides.
In this series, I will raise some challenges facing the developing world, add a bit of context and then leave it to your good judgment. Today, we are going to discuss the distressed farmer.
Among the various divides witnessed around the world today – between the rich and the poor, the haves and have nots, the gender divide, the digital divide – there is one that isn’t discussed that often, the rural-urban divide.
One major reason attributed to the defeat of the ruling BJP in India’s Hindi heartland states recently was the distressed farmer. They were unhappy with crop yields, lack of government support and general neglect of the agriculture sector.
While India has done reasonably well across various economic indicators in recent decades, challenges such as making the farming sector self-reliant and ensuring market access for agricultural products have not yet been overcome.
As a result, 300,000 farmers have committed suicide in India in the last 10 years alone. According to Down-to-Earth magazine, 15,000 farmers commit suicide every year in India, which is around 40 every day.
India as we know is a predominantly agrarian country with around 70 percent of its rural household depending directly or indirectly on agriculture. Farmers commit suicide elsewhere too but it’s not as rampant as it is in India.
Among the various divides witnessed around the world today – between the rich and poor, haves and have nots, the gender divide, the digital divide – there is one that isn’t discussed that often, the rural-urban divideEhtesham Shahid
This state of affairs raises many questions – Can any country afford to lose so many lives – that too of people who feed them?
Is it just about allocation of resources as some countries have the money to solve farmer’s challenges but choose to invest in other areas such as defense?
Is this talk of technology coming to farmers’ rescue mere hogwash, or hasn’t helped countries like India?
Another major dilemma is the farm subsidies – should we or shouldn’t we subsidize agricultural produce; how much is enough? What impact it has on a state’s exchequer?
But here is a broader and perhaps more pressing question – is the plight of farmers being ignored just because they live in the countryside and not amid our fancy cities or close to the corridors of power? Is it a case of away from sight, away from mind?
Have a great 2019.
Think about it and get in touch via my twitter handle: @e2sham. See you in another episode of Bridging Divides with Al Arabiya English.
Ehtesham Shahid is Managing Editor at Al Arabiya English. For close to two decades he has worked as editor, correspondent, and business writer for leading publications, news wires and research organizations in India and the Gulf region. He loves to occasionally dabble with teaching and is collecting material for a book on unique tales of rural conflict and transformation from around the world. His twitter handle is @e2sham and he can be reached at Ehtesham.Shahid@alarabiya.net.