indian farmers protest INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images

Indian Farmers in Revolt

During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tenure, the costs of agricultural inputs, and therefore of cultivation, have risen alarmingly, while prices for agricultural products, and therefore farm incomes, have stagnated or dropped. No wonder the Indian countryside is seething with anger and despair.

NEW DELHI – When Prime Minister Narendra Modi led his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to a landslide victory in the 2014 general election, he promised to be all things to all voters, eloquently promising “achhe din” (good days) for India. One of his target audiences was farmers; the agriculture sector still accounts for 67% of employment, and he grandly promised farmers that his government would double their incomes by 2020. He swept their votes.

Today, as Modi seeks another term in a general election due before May this year, those promises are haunting him. Indian agriculture is in crisis. Farmers are in ferment. During Modi’s tenure, the costs of inputs, and therefore of cultivation, have risen alarmingly, while prices for agricultural products, and therefore farm incomes, have stagnated or dropped. And, because government-guaranteed Minimum Support Prices (MSPs) have not been paid, farmers around the country are going broke.

It gets worse. When crops fail, many farmers and agricultural workers laid low by the crushing burden of debt (often incurred at usurious rates from rural moneylenders) commit suicide – as more than 11,400 did in 2016. That is the last year for which official data on farmer suicides is available, but media reports suggest the numbers have grown since then.

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