Farmers becoming extinct

In a Srimad Bhagavatam lecture in Mayapur in 1975 Srila Prabhupada said: “It is by ignorance that people think that by opening factories they will be happy. Why should they open factories? There is no need. There is so much land, and one can produce one’s own food grains and eat sumptuously without any factory. Milk is also available without a factory. The factory cannot produce milk or grains. The present scarcity of food in the world is largely due to such factories.

When everyone is working in the city to produce nuts and bolts, who will produce food grains? Simple living and high thinking is the solution to economic problems. Therefore the Krsna consciousness movement in engaging devotees in producing their own food and living self-sufficiently so that rascals may see how one can live very peacefully, eat the food grains one has grown oneself, drink milk, and chant Hare Krsna.”

No one wants to be a farmer anymore. It’s only a matter of time before farmer as a species goes extinct.

Some years back, the celebrated Indian President Abdul Kalam was addressing students at an annual event organised by K Govindacharya’s Bhartiya Swabhiman Andolan at Gulbarga in Karnataka. He exhorted students to work hard, educated themselves to become doctors, engineers, civil servants, scientists, economists and entrepreneurs.

After he had ended his talk, a young student got up and asked why he didn’t say that they should also become farmers. Abdul Kalam was floored. Whatever be his long winding answer, the young student had actually punctured his argument, and at the same time brought out the great bias towards farming.

This incident came to my mind when I was reading this moving essay by a farmer from the United States. Bren Smith, a shellfish and seaweed farmer writes in the New York Times (Aug 9, 2014) Don’t Let Your Children Grow up to be Farmers ( “The dirty secret of the food movement is that the much-celebrated small -scale farmer isn’t making a living. After the tools are put away, we head out to second and third jobs to keep our farms afloat.”

Accordingly, 91 per cent of all farm households in the US rely on multiple sources of income. This is happening in a country where the Farm Bill 2014 makes a provision for $ 962 billion of federal subsidy support for agriculture for the next 10 years.

Ironically, the stark reality remains hidden in the Year of Family Farms.

Farmers are a dying breed. Writing in the Newsweek magazine (April 10, 2014), Max Kutner says: “For decades, farmers across the country have been dying by suicide at higher rates than the general population. The exact numbers are hard to determine, mainly because suicide by farmers are under-reported (they may get mislabeled as hunting or tractor accidents, advocates for prevention say) and because the exact definition of a farmer is elusive.” (Death on the Farm

Well, what is happening in America is not an isolated development; farmers are dying across the globe. When some weeks back I said on a prominent TV channel that on an average 2,80,000 people living in rural areas every year have been committing suicide for the past decade in China, the nation was shocked.

A lot of concerned viewers called me up and wrote to me wanting to know more about the death on the Chinese farm. According to news report, nearly 80 per cent of the rural people who take their own lives in China are victims of farm land grab. In India, almost 300,000 farmers have ended their live since 1995.

 Again, like in the US, farm suicides are also under-reported in India with some States now trying to hide them by shifting these deaths to some other categories. Even in Europe, which provides massive subsidy support under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the serial death dance continues unabated. In France, 500 suicides have been reported in a year. In Ireland, in UK, in Russia, and in Australia farmers are a dying breed.

In India, although we keep on saying that agriculture is the mainstay on the economy, in reality it isn’t. Employing some 52 per cent of the population, the share of agriculture in country’s GDP has been progressively on the decline. It is less than 14 per cent now. I have been saying for long that small farmers have to get into multiple of jobs to keep their chulas burning.

Some studies point out to roughly 58 per cent farmers relying on the rural employment guarantee programme (MNREGA), which provides for 100 days guaranteed employment. Still worse, the people who feed the country actually sleep hungry.

More than 60 per cent go to bed hungry every night. Nothing can be a worse illustration of the great tragedy on the farm.

It’s not because of any unexplained natural calamity or a virus that the farms across the globe are first being hit by recession, and then depression. It is part of global economic design to move farmers out of agriculture, and by doing so to shift food production into the hands of heavily subsidised and environmentally-destructive agribusiness companies.

It is generally believed that for any country to grow economically, the share of agriculture in the GDP must be brought down. In US, agriculture is only 4 per cent of its GDP. In India, it is less than 14 per cent now. By the end of 2020, I am sure it would be somewhere in the range of 10 per cent. Small scale agriculture is therefore being deliberately stifled.

In my understanding, the unwritten economic prescription is to make farming non-viable so that farmers are left with no other choice but to quit. In a quest to keep food prices low, the economic paradigm support large agribusiness conglomerates. The demise of the farmer therefore is predetermined. It’s only a matter of time before the farmer as a species goes extinct.

Further reading:

1. Displacing Farmers: India will have 400 million Agricultural Refugees

2. France and India: The Beautiful farms are all but dying.

Prabhupada saw all this coming:

“…Therefore people are so much disturbed at the present moment. There is no sober life, dh…ra. If you want peaceful life in the society, then you must accept this program. Catur varnyam maya sristham… BG 4.13 . There must be brahminical class of men, ksatriya class of men, vaisya class of men. The vaisya…

Generally, we understand, vaisya means the mercantile class of men. No. At the present moment the so-called vaisyas are sudras, less than sudras. Why? Now the vaisya’s business is krsi-go-raksya-vanijyam vaisya-karma svabhava-jam BG 18.44 . The vaisyas must be engaged in producing foodgrains, but they are not interested.

They are interested for opening factories for bolts and nuts and tires, Goodwheel tires, Goodyear tires. Now you eat tire and bolt nut. No, you cannot eat. You have to eat rice, and rice is ten rupees per kilo. That’s all. Because no vaisya is producing food grains. This is the defect.

They don’t see the defect. They’re simply howling, bawling, “Oh, it has increased price”. Why not, increased, price? There are millions of people in Bombay city. Who is producing food grain? But they are known as vaisya. What kind of vaisya? There is no brahminical culture; there is no brain. There is no ksatriya who can give you protection. There are so many defects.

So if you want to remodel your life, the society, the human society, nationally or internationally—everything is spoken here, international—then you have to take to the advice of Krsna. This is the purpose of Krsna consciousness movement: wholesale, thorough, overhauling of the human society.

We have not manufactured anything, concocted things. It is very scientific. If you actually want to fulfill the mission of your life, then you have to take to this advice of Bhagavad-gita, very scientific and spoken by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, without any defects.” Bhagavad Gita Lecture Bombay 1975. 




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