Mudda looks at the continuing farmer suicides despite announcement of loan waivers in UP

Even 70 years after Independence, the farmers of the country are struggling for a life of dignity. After the snowballing protests of farmers in Madhya Pradesh, the state is now rocked by the suicides of two more farmers in the past 38 hours, raising the death toll to 10. Despite the announcement of loan waivers by the Uttar Pradesh government, five farmers have committed suicide across the state in the past two weeks. Two belonged to Kanpur district while one each was from Mahoba, Banda and Kaushambi.

The farmers were humiliated by private moneylenders and cooperative societies. Political parties, instead of focusing on the farmers’ plight, are busy trying to capitalise on the scenario to gain political mileage. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan was seen visiting temples whereas Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia is on a 72-hour hunger strike. India’s farmers are still waiting to be provided with farm inputs, cheaper pesticides, and access to newer technologies for farming.

The issue was discussed on Friday’s edition of Mudda, the daily current affairs talk show of APN. It was moderated by Himanshu while the panellists were Congress spokesperson Dr. Hilal Naqvi, National Secretary of Indian Farmers’ Union Raj Singh Biswal, BJP politician Chandra Bhushan Pandey, senior journalist Kulsum Talha, Muslim affairs expert CT Ajmal Khan, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board’s Mufti Aijaaz Arshad Qasmi and advocate Mujtaba Hussain.

Biswal, putting forth the farmers’ perspective, said: “Farmers were never the government’s priority. At least now it should have some shame. How can the plight of that old man be explained who along with his family sleeps hungry? He is mistreated by the moneylenders, humiliated on the roads, even his family members are treated so badly by these goons. What option is left with that man except to commit suicide? Farmers have been reduced to a joke.” He also raised questions against the prime minister, asking why  the Swaminathan Committee Report was not implemented despite the government’s promise to do so.

Talha brought in another angle to the debate, saying the actual problem was not farmers’ inability to repay loans but the very fact they are forced to take loans. The government must try to focus on creating an alternative for farmers, she said. Highlighting the role of journalists in the matter, she said: “As journalists it is our duty to monitor the policies introduced by the government and keep a close eye on the development of those policies and the growth of our farmers. What we need is the implementation of drafted policies on the ground. Instead of debating here in AC studios, there should be more focus on journalists going into the field for collecting in-depth stories.”

The second segment of Mudda dealt with the UP government’s announcement on dissolution of the Waqf Board. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has started the process after the board was accused of serious corruption. The Waqf Council of India, too, in its inquiry found the board members guilty of accumulating wealth by misusing their position.

Ajmal Khan accused the state government of appointing people of questionable character to the board. He said stricter laws should be framed which would ensure that people found guilty of corruption were evicted from the board.

Qasmi said: “The government has no right to supercede and dissolve the board. Generally, when a new government is formed, the party members are given powerful positions on the board. Out of all the illegal land holdings of the board, a majority are held by the government.” He said that it is unethical to dissolve the board without conducting a proper inquiry.

He also said that the Maharashtra government had suspended just one member of the Waqf Board in the state upon which the member had brought in an immediate stay order from the court. The court ruled in his favour, saying the move wasn’t legitimate. Here, he said, the entire board is being dissolved which is unjustified. Hussain disagreed with him, saying that according to the Waqf Act of 1995 the government has the power to dissolve it.

Compiled by Lilly Paul