It has become common and normal for a section of social observers, and commentators, to blame the victim. One can understand a certain amount of review of any victimisation, with an objective of prevention of such recurrence. When a child falls down, parents would often advise. If falling becomes repetitive, they would bring certain other measures. In recent years, with rapes on the rise, there are people who would blame the victim, without even knowing the details or the person. In the past more than a decade, farmers are also at the receiving end of such a blame game. This is often resorted to either avoid responsibility, shirk load on the morals, or protect the structure which benefits them, and has a role in trend of suicides.
In the Parliament, recently, Radha Mohan Singh, Union Minister for Agriculture, read out a statement against a question on farmers suicides. The statement based on the report of National Crime Records Bureau lists several causes including love affairs for rising trend of farmers suicides. Interestingly, unlike last year’s Intelligence Bureau report, this NCRB report does not list any direct agriculture related causes. There was a huge media-based outrage. Government defended itself saying that it is working for the farmers. It has not denied its acceptance of the findings, nor admitted any lapse on the part of the Minister in reading out a statement verbatim, without any considerations for the implications. Arun Jaitley, Union Finance Minister, justified his colleague, by citing an earlier instance of similar statement by the previous UPA government. With this, it is confirmed, a government would take the exact route – blame the victim and shirk responsibility. All governments would be the same.
Ofcourse, this is not new. When studies pointed out excessive usage of fertilisers as the cause of soil degradation and ill health, scientists and officials claimed that farmers are to be blamed, taking the line, ‘we told them to use ‘x’ amount in ‘a’ particular area, for such a particular crop’. They are referring to a norm, and deviation from that norm. If you dig deeper, one would be aghast to know the recommending authorities have a ‘poor’ idea of the norm, and about the specific circumstances where such norms hold true, usually laboratory. Similar blame is on the farmers, with regard to pesticide and seeds.
In fact, there are think tanks and institutions that would blame the farmers for the entire agricultural crisis. They would not admit their failures, and the number of turns and twists their own theories, conclusions and findings have taken. Modern agriculture and neo-liberal governance would be ready to push the small and marginal farmers out of farming, and would prefer modern corporations to do the farming. In such a scenario, it would be within the argument to blame the victim, personalise the issue, and close the doors of good governance on them.
Farmers suicides are a public issue, and has a policy significance. Policy failures and shortcomings of governance should have been the discussant points in the Parliament, when rising number of farmers suicides have been brought to their notice. Instead by reading out a statement, wherein the farmer’s fallibilities have been highlighted, Union Minister has easily circumvented the Constitutional duties enjoined upon him. A Finance Minister who does not react, with or without precedence, on reports when banks refuse loans to farmers, springs up to defend his colleague, with a fig leaf of precedence, of a government they blamed for inefficiency and imbecile attitude to farmers and farming problems.
While failure and suicides are to be discussed in the personal domain, for the ruling elite, success is a lapel on their shoulders. GDP growth rate in agriculture is a shining armour. Even multi-national corporations, dodging regulations, equity and justice, have also started following this trend. Monsanto, which claims success of its Bt cotton for increasing yields and boosting Indian cotton production, would rather shy away from the fact that among all farm suicides, more than 50 percent are cotton farmers. Cotton bloom is on the them; farmers gloom is not their concern. Seed failures are because farmers are fools, for sowing early, not giving enough water, poor soils and poor agricultural practices. Higher harvests are because of ‘science’ behind their seeds.
The blame, of all farmer’s suicides, lies on the door steps of politics, business, science and governance, and nowhere else.