Wednesday, March 4, 2015

the cruelty of the rain gods and ordinary mortals

Facebook has been awash with pictures and status updates that speak of the joy and exuberance triggered by the March rains. The rains were unexpected ---- a drizzle around Holi is not uncommon, but it doesn't rain, and rain heavily, for several days when we enter March. The weather changed, light woolens were pulled out again, we shared barkha songs on social media, we reveled in the cold breeze, an online publication listed all the Delhi restaurants/cafes where one could enjoy food and wine seated outdoors, and so on and so forth. 

Today, I read in The Hindu that the unseasonal rains has played havoc with the rabi crops of wheat, mustard and chana and "may trim the output of the commodities.". The news item included several statistics to do with the area under cultivation of these crops, the expected output loss etc. There was no mention, however, of the dramatic impact that the crop failure will have on the lives of farmers. Why? We don't care, that's why. 

Did you know that in Uttar Pradesh, 3 farmers have died in the past three days? They could not bear to see the flattened fields, They could no longer brave the huge losses that they were faced with. One hanged himself from a babool tree in his wheat fields, two died of cardiac arrests when they saw the damage that the rains had wreaked overnight on the crops that were getting ready to harvest. 

Others may not lose their lives, but the coming days will be sorrowful for them ---- wheat fields have been flattened, sarson seeds will yield almost 50% less oil, half the potatoes harvested may rot because they have absorbed moisture during these two or three days of heavy rains. Some of those who grow wheat may now have to buy wheat. 

Of course, the State Governments will announce cash compensations to the affected farmers but these cash compensations are neither timely nor adequate, or no farmer would experience such distress as to take his own life when face to face with natural calamities. In Bundelkhand, the cash compensations announced in 2014 as a result of drought are yet to be disbursed, and the farmers are now confronted with damage due to rains !!

As consumers, there is not much we can do by way of direct intervention in the lives of farmers. What we CAN do is to make the effort to become better acquainted with the challenges that farmers face, and question the government when we read of policies/laws that are not farmer-friendly, and demand that the solutions that farmers , farmer organisations and and farm policy experts propose be heard more sympathetically and factored in when plans for urban and industrial growth are drawn up. The farmers do put food on our tables, don't they ?

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