Imphal Review of Arts and Politics

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Why Farming Isn’t Prestigious in Manipur Anymore? The Answer has to do with Social Attitude

Victory may not always go to the farmers. From last week, farmers under All India Kishan Sabha and Bharatiya Khet Mazdoor Sangha had pulled of a Nationwide agitation ending September 5,highlighting the woes of the farmers in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Manipuri farmers too supported it, and one of the agitating farmers said, “Everyone says farmers are our soul, but when farmers face misfortunes, does anybody care?”

This year Manipuri farmers have high hopes, despite the pandemic, because the monsoons came at the right time. Perhaps, their optimism was more. Because, as I’d say, fertilizers went beyond their hands. They had to stand in long queus and produce pattas of the land they till, which is not hassle free, to get fertilizers. Sometime later, the govt. distributed fertilizers but, I think, the appropriate time might have been missed by many farmers.

So it brings me to rethink whether Kanta was right in deciding to quit farming and opt to become a mechanic. Kanta is the son of Mayambung, a prosperous farmer of Charangpat in Thoubal district. His farmer father had high hopes for him to become a farmer, but as in Wordsworth’s ‘Michael, ‘he frustrated his father’s hopes. The tractor his father had bought for him, was sold and only the makeshift garage where it was parked now remained in a dilapidated form of four pillars and crumbling walls.

Kanta alienated himself from the land, came to Imphal and became a vehicle mechanic. Among the noise, smoke and vices of Imphal, he took to drinking, and now before his work begins each day, he has to drink half a litre of local brew. His alienation from the land destroyed him and as Pearl S. Buck showed in her novel ‘The Good Earth’, his life lost all morals and decency with his distancing away from his fathers’ field.

Was it not right to be a farmer? His father Mayambung wore clean dhoties, attended the ritual of Shri Govindaji and mixed in high society though he was a farmer. But he, Kanta, is now a debased soul.

However Kanta is urbane and a city bird.

A farmer is not a degraded persona. But many farmers are giving up farming. They even sell the land they till, and look for jobs in Imphal. There aren’t, many, among the younger generation, who aim to become a farmer. But why?

I suppose there are reasons.

One lady remarked, “Our rulers are too suave. They are far from being countrymen”. As it is there aren’t any ruler who runs a farm, though they have other business enterprises. But, if I may be allowed, Lord Irwin, the Viceroy of India in the early 20th century did farming. He himself said that he was a countryman.

And you find many farmers being consoled and encouraged to do farming. We are prone to imitating our rulers. If no ruler does farming, the farmers themselves will think that farming itself is an inferior task.

Which brings me to the conclusion: if rulers and the wealthy do farming, farmers themselves will take pride in their profession. But now as that has not happened, many farmers are migrating to Imphal to become masons, mechanics and drivers.

When I asked a farmer about his greatest problem, he replied he could not sell his produces. Which is why the govt. has earmarked a corpus fund of Rs. 3 crores to buy farm products. And the fields in Imphal West district are now green with paddy plants.

Somehow, I believe, there will be dignified farmers. And Kanta perhaps is not right to betray his father and become a mechanic. His father Mayambung was a gentile, and everybody in echelons of high society accepted him as such.

To be a farmer is not so disgracing as long as he is wealthy and maintain a standard of living.

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