Thursday 04 Mar 2021

Swayampurna narrative and the farmer disconnect

| FEBRUARY 23, 2021, 11:55 PM IST

The political storm brewing across the State ahead of the elections to 11 municipalities and the CCP was obvious with the State administration, political parties, State Election Commission and the High Court engaged with the subject at hand. However, in far away Sattari, villagers faced a storm in the true sense of the word with high-speed winds leaving a trail of destruction damaging houses and crops. Villagers ran for cover as cyclonic winds struck Kankire and Guleli villages blowing away rooftops and damaging plantation.

The question now on every farmer's mind, what’s next? Could farmers bank on the Swayampurna Goa narrative that is unfolding, and can that bail them out? With a new punch-line of self-reliance, could the distressed farmer find peace and reconcile with the losses suffered? Or will the theme of self-reliant Goa continue to be high on optics and low on delivery?

The State government released an action plan in November last year outlining a set of initiatives under the 'Aatmanirbhar Bharat Swayampurna Goa programme'. The scheme dwells on facilitating the growth of farmers, assistance on horticulture cultivation, crop insurance and several other aspects to boost agro production. In October 191 gazetted officers were deputed to panchayats under its month-long "Swayampurna Mitra" exercise to feel the pulse of villages and carry out a ground-level audit of schemes and resources. How far has the government reached in alleviating the sufferings of the farm sector?

Monday's cyclonic winds destroyed the plantation inflicting an estimated loss of Rs 15 lakh. Ironically, the farmer is asked to proceed with paperwork for compensation, when the claims of 2019 and 2020 where crops were destroyed in floods are not yet fully settled. Farmers are made to wait helplessly in hope and there is precious little that is done to troubleshoot problem areas. If chief minister Pramod Sawant is to be believed the vexed land ownership rights are under active consideration of the government. But what about the heavy losses that are suffered on account of crop damage and why is the farmer made a scapegoat?

The State government may be gathering data on what ails agriculture, but there are crucial impediments that continue to be ignored. The quantum of compensation, vis-a-vis the actual damages needs to be reworked. The monetary relief currently given doesn't cover up even half the losses suffered, leave alone the crop damage inflicted by vermin. The farmer has to be empowered, instead of treating him like a victim.

The Swayampurna catchword may not have made any headway yet, but it certainly has yielded political mileage. We could see the hurry with which Chief Minister Pramod Sawant extended it to municipal areas ahead of the civic polls. The government has a lot of ground to cover if it makes a success story of this initiative. Highlighting schemes and issuing Krishi cards alone will not help when farmers continue to face untold hardships and delays in seeking compensation.


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