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Shaming of Tamils by Tamil farmers at Delhi

The Tamils have a long and hoary past of tradition, culture and pride from the Sangam times through the regimes of Pallavas, Cholas, Pandyas and hundreds of smaller kingdoms. They have maintained a long unbroken history of dignity, decorum and leadership. They had excelled in a vast range of activities. Shipbuilding and seafaring reached its zenith under the Cholas who conquered several kingdoms in the southeast. Art and architecture again flourished under the Pallavas and Cholas who were great builders of temples. Civic administration under the Cholas had brilliant modern concepts in the matter of taxation, building and maintaining water bodies through community participation (kudi maraamatthu)...

For over 2000 years Tamil literature flourished with Tirukkural unparalleled in the range and depth of morals and ways of life through pithy seven-word couplets.

Contrast these with the shaming of this rich heritage by a few farmers agitating at the national capital through inconceivably mean actions. Poorly clad with loin cloth and indulging in extremely disgusting acts like biting rats and snakes, rolling and somersaulting in public roads, stripping naked in public place, drinking urine...  Few dozens of these brought down the dignity and shamed over 750 lakh Tamils purely on vote bank considerations. Neither the state leadership nor that at the Centre put a stop to this uncivilised agitation. 

I am reminded of a Mullah Nasruddin story: One day, people saw Mullah Nasruddin out on the street searching for something. “What are you searching ?”, they enquired. “I’ve lost my key,” replied  the Mullah. So everyone joined him, trying to help him. After some search, someone asked the place where exactly was the key lost. “I lost the key in the house,” replied the Mullah. “Then why are you searching for it in the street?” “Because, there is more light here,” replied the Mullah.

Agriculture is a state subject. Any relief sought by the farmers had to be addressed to the state government. For the 2006 elections, the DMK election platform promised waiver of farm loans taken from state cooperative banks. Immediately after taking oath as chief minister, Karunanidhi announced the waiver of agricultural loans sanctioned by cooperative banks amounting to Rs  6866 crore. In the subsequent years the DMK government also agreed to subsidise interest on farm loans: from the 7 per cent ordained by the Centre, the state, in successive years, reduced it to 5 per cent, 4 per cent, 1 per cent and nil, providing for the difference in the state budgets.

Adityanath Yogi, chief minister of UP, a state much poorer than Tamil Nadu in terms of per capita income, took upon the state farm loans amounting to Rs 36,000 crore. 

Contrast this with the leaders of various descriptions making a beeline to Jantar Mantar, the place of agitation, in unending procession. These included leaders of parties in opposition including DMK’s M K Stalin to ministers and MPs. Of course, the month-long agitation could not have been staged without the overt and covert support of the AIADMK in power. 

I revert to my oft-repeated suggestion: that Tamil Nadu cannot sustain water-intensive crops of paddy and sugarcane. In two of the recent five years, rice production had dipped to 40 lakh tonnes, half of average of normal monsoon years. It should switch to high-value horticulture, corn, millets... that the fragmented small holdings of two acres and less need to be agglomerated to large farms to facilitate application of  science, technology, and management; this could be done by permitting leasing land over 15 years without alienating ownership. Agriculture in the state accounts for just 8 per cent of its GDP, roughly half the national average. Thus the state should focus on other sectors. Continued subsidisation cannot sustain farming. 

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