Pakistan has failed to meet this year’s cotton sowing goal while missing the yearly cotton production targets since 2011-12.
The main reason is believed to be the virus spread and acute shortage of water hampering the yield of the crop.
The situation is not only bad for the country’s economy, which thrives on its agricultural exports, but also severely affecting the Pakistani farmer.
Similarly, the sugar mill owners have been exploiting the poor condition of the farmers.
With some exception, no owner has provided the support price of 180 rupees per 40 kg of sugarcane to the farmer.
On the other hand, the support price of the sugarcane is lower than the timber burnt for cooking.
The farmer community is comprised of almost 40% of national workforce and millions of people are directly dependent on their painstaking work in the fields.
The situation of the farmer, however, for the past many years is in the declining order and is facing many adversaries at the same time:
1. The climate change is resulting into shortage of water. The canals are getting more dry intervals which is affecting the sowing and limiting the production of crops.
2. The lack of education is hindering the adoption of new technologies, methods, and modern techniques for high yield cultivation.
3. The agricultural research is not producing fresh varieties of seeds that are resistant to pests, climate change, and micro-organisms.
4. The input expense is getting higher with increasing prices of fertilizer, pesticides, seeds, diesel, and electricity.
5. There is no mechanism to ensure the government’s fixed support prices of the crops are provided directly to the grower.
6. The corrupt and complex procedures by the government departments exploit the condition of the farmers.
7. There is no lobby or pressure group of farmers to put pressure on governments for their rights. Resultantly, they block roads by dumping their crops on the roads and getting humiliating response from the government machinery.
Hence the life of the hardworking is getting hard hitting.
Additionally, political parties try to lure this, one of the largest voter communities of Pakistan by hollow promises and shallow slogans.
For example, Pakistan People’s Party unveiled its manifesto for general elections 2018 with a catchy slogan “BB ka Waada Nibhana hai- Pakistan Bachana hai”.
The manifesto’s top most pledge is to free all from the fear of hunger and thirst. It seems ironic that a party, in the past, termed as poor friendly that not only contested elections on “Roti” but also won, on at least three occasions with the last one being a complete five-year term, is contesting elections on the same “ Roti” with a modern name to it as food security.
The PPP has vowed to provide food security by a “Zarai Inqilab”. This so called “Inqilab” will be pivoted around “Benzair Kissan Card”, which the party is promising to provide to any member of the agricultural community who would wish to acquire. It means that our country’s 40% workforce, millions in numbers, will be registered under this program.
It is unfortunate that the whole concept of agricultural policy is based on subsidy- on fertilizer, seed, electricity, and support prices.
On the contrary, the larger policy of taking concrete steps for investing in agricultural research, modern methods and technology awareness program, mechanism to ensure farmers get exact support price and in timely order, policy to counter climate change impact on agriculture, and their due representation in the decision and policy making is absent from the manifesto.
In the end, the “Benazir Kissan Card” gives the Shadow feeling of Benazir Income Support Program that provides nominal support money to the poorest who cannot earn their livelihoods.
How sad it is for the grower community that not only works diligently for their living but also wants the respect of their countrymen.
Farmers are not beggars.