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Sowing a season of discontent

mumbai Updated: Oct 24, 2017 14:34 IST
Sujata Anandan
Sujata Anandan
Hindustan Times
Mumbai news,Diwali,opinion

Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis(HT File)

It would seem the current dispensation and farmers are simply not made for each other. A day before Diwali, the Maharashtra government made an event of distributing loan waiver certificates to farmers, claiming the write-off had benefited 80 lakh ryots. A day later, farmers hit the streets again in various parts of the state to protest the government’s attempts at misleading them and threatened to file cases against chief minister Devendra Fadnavis for cheating them about the loan waiver - neither had 80 lakh farmers received the certificates, nor had those who did benefit in the measure the government claimed, they alleged. Now the Kisan Kranti Morcha, famed for flooding the streets with milk in June this year, is threatening to revive its agitation and beard Fadnavis in his den again to ask him if he really does mean business vis-à-vis farmers.

I think he does - at least to the extent of compensating them handsomely for depriving them of their fertile lands for his pet Samruddhi Expressway. That expressway is crucial to the BJP’s plans for shifting many markets out of Mumbai and to Nagpur if they wish to see their promise of a separate Vidarbha come through soon. Party leaders are not unconscious of the fact that Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand did not do too well in terms of GDP and the Human Development Index (HDI) after separation from Madhya Pradesh and Bihar respectively. Comparing Seoni, Betul, Balaghat and other contiguous districts of Madhya Pradesh with Vidarbha, which are similar in terms of climate, rainfall, soil and other natural factors, shows that Vidarbha, though somewhat backward by comparison to Western Maharashtra, has benefited enormously by its association with Bombay. Thus there is a concerted effort to turn Nagpur into another Bombay by shifting many significant institutes and industries to this winter capital - and the Samruddhi Expressway is of much importance to that game plan. For Nagpur is landlocked and, while it has a cargo hub under development, it certainly will need speedy access to ports to make it attractive for industries to shift base there.

The Shiv Sena by now should have woken up to this plan but somehow, the BJP has succeeded in getting the party to preside over its own slaughter. A couple of weeks ago, there were reports of a truckload of farm animals in Iceland who were injured when the vehicle carrying them overturned. Veterinarians were rushed to the site and they were moved to an animal hospital, given first aid and other treatment, with the authorities making sure they were all fine and in the pink of health. Then they were loaded back on to a truck again and driven off - to the abattoir, where they had been headed in the first place!

The strange and unusual incident gave me goosebumps - I couldn’t help draw parallels with farmers in Nashik, Amravati, Aurangabad and elsewhere who are being lured with promises of a great deal in exchange for their land - once the money runs out, so does their means of livelihood.

Farmers’ groups have, however, now cottoned on to what is afoot and, once their sowing season is over in the next couple of weeks, are likely to take to the streets once again - and this time they are unlikely to settle for crumbs. Though I do not think Rs24,000 crore in loan waivers so far is a mean amount, the fact remains that the monies have not stretched to all farmers and has only succeeded in sowing a season of discontent among them.

Farmers have woken up to their fate but how about the Shiv Sena? Its minister, Eknath Shinde, continues to preside over the public works department, which will ultimately oversee the building of the Samruddhi Expressway that is likely to lead to the decline of Bombay. Another, Subhash Desai, as minister for industries, seems not to have woken up to the plan to shift large chunks of various industries and markets to Nagpur. His earlier letter of protest to the Centre at the attempt to shift activities of the Bombay Port Trust to Porbander had a measure of the plan but I thought it was more focussed on losing a workforce that is a strong voter base rather than on losing Mumbai altogether.

Like those animals in Iceland, they are being administered some balm for occasional hurts. But ultimately they are being led to preside over their own decimation.

First Published: Oct 24, 2017 14:34 IST