Demonetisation woes and the muted reaction


Last Wednesday, S Raju, a farmer from Anantapur district, brought around two tonnes of tomatoes to Bowenpally market in Secunderabad but had to return home empty handed.

Raju said he spent nearly Rs 4 per kg to raise the tomato crop and it cost him another Rs 2 per kg to transport the produce to Secunderabad, more than 400 km from Anantapur.

But he was shocked when traders at Bowenpally offered not more than Rs 2 a kg for his crop.

Raju realised the price quoted was not sufficient even to meet the transportation cost, as he had to travel back to Anantapur.

Frustrated, he unloaded boxes of tomatoes and dumped them in the market yard, before cursing the traders and market authorities. Some vendors picked up tomatoes for free, while cattle feasted on the remaining dump.

“Apparently, he has come all the way to Hyderabad, because tomato prices came down drastically in Anantapur market,” Srinivas, a local commission agent, told the media.

Some distressed farmers threw their onion produce in front of stray cattle at the Neemuch market in December. (Arun Mondhe/Hindustan Times)

Some distressed farmers threw their onion produce in front of stray cattle at the Neemuch market in December. (Arun Mondhe/Hindustan Times)

The situation is similar in other parts of Rayalaseema that are known for production of tomatoes.

Farmers across India are battling a steep fall in wholesale vegetable prices and are forced to discard their produce as a nationwide cash crunch following the scrapping of high-value banknotes hurts demand.

The crash in wholesale prices comes at a bad time for farmers, who reaped a bumper crop and were hoping for good returns to make up for losses induced by two straight drought years.

From Hindustan Times

From Hindustan Times

 

High cauliflower yield coupled with a cash crunch after demonetisation has sent wholesale prices crashing in Bihar. Farmers in Patna, Vaisali, Muzaffarpur and other districts are forced to sell produce at throwaway rates. On Saturday, the price of the seasonal vegetable was at its lowest — Rs 10 – Rs 15 per kg — in major retail markets. In wholesale markets, the price was almost one-third.

Can a government in a functioning democracy carry out such cruel measures on the public at large and still survive ?

Musician and social activist T M Krishna share some thoughts on to this aspect of muted reactions from the public to demonetisation fiasco.

I am unable to frame words with exactitude that describe this silent disquiet among many. But as I watch people, listen to conversations, overhear whispers at railway stations and airports, speak to auto drivers, street vendors and shopkeepers, there is a sense of acceptance about the various infringements we have been mute witnesses to over the past few years.

The maya of pseudo-morality has been so wonderfully mass-marketed and installed in our minds that any expression of dissent makes us feel lesser, corrupt and unfaithful. And, hence, even the doubtful are surrendering to the possibility that all this is for our betterment. Just like we feel that punishment at school is necessary to instil discipline and moral correctness, today we sit in the classroom of our land, policed by our headmaster, Narendra Modi, receiving a few lashes at all those ideals that he says have led us astray….

There is something missing in us. I do not know if it is cultural or conditioned, but as a people, we do not recognise rights as a fundamental nature of living. This is as true of the privileged as it is of the ones on the fringes. We will oppress, twist the system and justify that in the name of survival. At the same time, rarely will we realise that the rights given by our Constitution to all inhabitants of this land are not benevolence showered on us by some supreme power but a beautiful gift we gave ourselves. Exercising our rights is seen by many as obstructive and of nuisance value. Some even feel they are committing a wrong when they assert themselves, and there are those who will not take the risk, held back by fear.

We do not respect ourselves as people of ethical power, power that gives us the right to live with dignity, privacy, empathy and empowerment. And, hence, we are nervous about voicing those demands. This is disrespect of our own humanity and, ironically, that gives us the right to manipulate it unabashedly. We believe in servitude and obedience, constantly adjusting to the powerful, applying exactly the same oppressive techniques on those who are lower in our social ladder, the worst hit being the Dalits, Muslims and women. Therefore, the lack of large-scale public anger at all that has been going on is not to be equated with a certification, it is an odd mixture of fatalism, false morality and an inability to ask for what is ours. Our idea of the self is not derived from the Constitution, it comes from elsewhere, an intangible vague past.

We are a confluence of an old civilisation and a new democracy. If you ask an Indian, they will instantly connect with the cultural antiquity of who we are and not with the modern constitutional democracy that is India today. Many of our cultural practices and faiths contravene democracy, making reconciliation next to impossible. This is the reason why we are unable to understand ideas such as liberty, equality, fraternity and justice in a 21st-century sense. We interpret all this in relation to an ambiguous past, and we are unable to trust the contemporary.

For us, the old is far more valuable than the new and our Constitution is new and hence, must submit to an old age scrutiny. We are uncomfortable in our Democratic Republic skin and always looking out for that monarch. And unfortunately, in Modi many have found that tough, benevolent raja. The only history that he and his government want to destroy is the one that began in 1950 and was told from then on. They lose no opportunity to constantly reiterate that ancient past, when we were supposedly pure, unpolluted by outsiders. A cultural technique to subvert India – the Secular Socialist Democratic Republic.

It seems we Indians have to go a long way to transform ourselves in to a real democratic mindset.

Comments welcome