On Sunday, Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi Palaniswami met the farmers protesting at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi and assured them that their demands would be met in a month’s time. But by convincing the protesting farmers to suspend their agitation, Mr Palaniswami has not addressed the problem — he has only managed to avert what could have soon become a political crisis for both the Centre and state. In the protest that went on for 41 days, the farmers, to highlight their plight, adopted several extreme measures, which included biting into dead mice and snakes, eating grass, and even threatening to drink urine and eat human faeces. In a harrowing protest, farmers hung human skulls, which they claimed were of dead farmers, around their necks.
Though it has now been suspended, the protest highlights the agrarian crisis in Tamil Nadu and many other parts of the country. It is a pity and reflects poorly on the nation when its farmers are pushed to such disturbing, even macabre, means to attract the attention of authorities towards what should be treated as nothing short of a national crisis. If corrective measures are not taken now, it could lead to more farmer suicides and protests.
With an increasing unpredictability in weather patterns, the demand for water is only set to increase. Unless awareness is created on how to judiciously use existing resources and replenish reserves, the requirement for water cannot be met satisfactorily. Also, with supply far below demand, water-related tensions will increase in frequency. The issue of inequality in water availability is set to raise tensions between states, as is seen between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka in the Cauvery water dispute.
The Centre, along with the states, needs to come up with a solution to address such riparian tensions, and set a template that can be used in the future. But precious little has been done. Basic steps, such as rainwater harvesting, which increases groundwater reserves, have not been made mandatory for every building in urban India.
The farmers’ protests should be a reminder to the government, both at the Centre and states, to focus on addressing the problems faced by them and ensure that farmers are not forced to turn to such measures in the future.