I wonder how many would today resonate with the then Prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri's slogan "Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan" (Hail the soldier, Hail the farmer). While the country still honors the many soldiers for their sacrifices, I have my own doubts on whether the Kisan has managed to garner the same attention let alone the much deserved respect.

As the nation booms in the digital economy, agriculture - the once backbone of the country - seems to be pushed into the backdrop. One forgets that it is Kisan, the lost soul, who still contributes about a fifth of economic output. The sector that employs about a 2/3rd of India's billions seems to not get the much deserved priority, status and respect in the eyes of the elected and bureaucrats, let alone the common man. 

Even the unprecedented deaths of farmers - on an average, one farmer dies every 30 minutes -  in the recent past has presumably not evoked the actions or emotions in our minds. Are these deaths a desperate attempt by the Kisan asking us to juxtapose the rate of farmer suicide with that of killings in the defense? Are these uncalled deaths not enough to bring to light our failed policies and inability to provide access to affordable credit? Do they not tell the tales of greedy middlemen and corrupt administration?

Probably the wake up call would come when this continued passivity hits the food security. It's an irony that we, despite being the world's 2nd largest wheat producer the world, had to import wheat from US and Canada last year.  With the rate of agricultural growth falling from 5% in the mid-1980s to less than 2% in the past 5 years, the demand-supply gap for the staples seem to be rising. For rice alone this gap was around 4 million tonnes.

For now, the good news is that the Prime minister Manmohan Singh has at least acknowledged that the agriculture in many parts of the state is in crisis.

(More on the Kisan story in the coming blogs..)

~Santosh

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