India is the land of peasants. It is peasantry which has existed in more than sixty thousand villages for centuries, and has given added dimension to the social, political, cultural and economic development of India. It not only maintained the secular character of Indian society; it also strengthened its composite culture. We need not to carryout any research work to describe the importance and significance of peasantry in the political fields of contemporary and modern India. We may just look at the pages of history regarding India’s national liberation movement, especially pertaining to the Gandhian Era; and everything about the vital role played by peasants will become clear.
The pages of Indian history state that during the course of the Civil Disobedience Movement led by Mahatma Gandhi, which began by breaking the Salt Law in 1930, amongst the 63, 490 men and women who were arrested and sent to jails in its first stage, i.e. in the year 1930 itself, more than half were from the peasant community. Similarly, according to the available documents of the Colonial Government, out of the 64,630 men and women sent to prison during the course of the world famous Quit India Movement launched to free India from the British Empire in 1942, the people belonging to farming community were in the majority; from amongst 20, 946 persons who were prosecuted by the Colonial Government, 70 percent were peasants.
This is just an example pertaining to the contribution of rural-masses and peasantry to the national liberation movement of India. India became politically free in 1947. At that time it had no sufficient food to fill the bellies of its people. It was dependent on imported food grains. But it was the brave and hard-working peasantry whom, in spite of years’-old problems like land-reforms, brought about the ‘Green Revolution’ to the country, and by contributing the largest portion to the GDP made the country self-dependent in the matter of food grains only within two-three decades after the freedom. Furthermore, rural-masses and peasants accorded a unique and exemplary dimension to the national development through the ‘Operation-Flood.’
After contributing so much to the development of the nation, particularly in the social, political, economic and cultural spheres, has the peasantry of India after six decades of independence received its due honour? Can seventy percent of the rural masses, especially the peasants, involved in agricultural work become real partners in national development, especially in comparison to others? These are some of the burning questions before us which shake our hearts to find concrete answers. Furthermore, due to indebtedness the suicides of more than thirty thousand farmers in the provinces of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and other parts of the country compel us to bow our heads in shame.
The way to India’s progress, as Mahatma Gandhi also said, goes through the villages; farmers are the backbone of the country. If, despite their hard work, farmers are badly disappointed by crop results due to want of proper irrigation-systems, the failure of the monsoon, and a lack of a proper relief system from the Government, they suffer under a burden of indebtedness and ultimately commit suicide, it is definitely shameful and also a matter of serious concern.
And the most shameful thing is that in spite of a declaration of a sum of Rs.16978.69 crores by the Government of India as relief to affected farmers and to improve the irrigation-system in the year 2007, there has been no decrease in the suicide attempts. Now is the time when all concerned, particularly the Government, must act without any further delay in undertaking this serious challenge to handle this situation in such a manner that no farmer of the country dies from hunger or commits suicide due to not discharging a debt.