The Making of Agricultural Crisis In India!

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    Around 15% of GDP is contributed by agricultural and allied activities in India. The sector provides means of livelihood to more than 50% of the population of the country and contributes 11 % to Indian exports. India is the largest producers of Pulses and Oilseeds in the world.

    Historically, India has witnessed sustained and impressive growth in agricultural productivity boosted by events like green and white revolution. Still, an extreme form of hunger, poverty, malnutrition is prevalent among those who are directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture. Still, our farmers continue to suicide in such large numbers.

    Ever thought why?

    The fundamental root of the agrarian crisis is the intense pressure of population on land which has pushed down the size structure of landholdings to such an extent that around 83% of rural households are either entirely landless or own less than 1 hectare of land. So landless labourers and marginal farmers account for 80% of the population of Indian Farmer community

    The second element of crisis is the shortage of money because of which landless or marginal farmers lack resources to either buy or lease more land or invest in farm infrastructures like irrigation, power, machinery, fertilizer and pesticides to compensate scarcity of land by increasing productivity of the land.

    The third element of crisis is the barrage of risks to which a farmer is constantly exposed to the uncertainty of monsoon, availability of seeds and credit on right time, weak soil fertility due to non-judicious use of fertilizer and pesticides, the spread of pest and plant disease etc.

    At the same time practices like double cropping, lack of soil rotation, indiscriminate use of fertilizers and pesticides, lack of proper soil assessment are creating pressure on soil recreation and thereby affecting the yields negatively. According to a research paper conducted by Dandekar & Bhattacharya suggested a high degree of correlation between crop failure and farmers suicides.

    Besides that even a good harvest does not ensure a good year because of high variability in prices. Better is the crop, lower are the prices. The highly distorted and exploitative product market further add to the misery of the farmers, like Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) which are supposed to protect the farmer’s interest but have opposite effect.
    Farmers have to sell their produce through auctions in the regulated market controlled by a cartel of licensed traders, whose licenses give them oligopolistic market power. These cartels fix low purchase prices, extract large commissions, delay payments etc.  Based on his research, Mr Ashok Gulati, former chairman of APMC claims that the farmer may typically get as little as 25% of the price that consumer finally pay.

    The Way Out

    Though the complexity and the massive scale of the problem do not suggest easy quick fixes a long-term strategy of consistent and committed efforts can show us some light of change.

      • Efforts should be made towards consolidation of land holdings to increase agricultural productivity. Contract Farming is one such good idea to achieve consolidation of land and attract industrial and private investments in the capital starved agricultural sector.
      • The role of the government becomes critical in reviving the agricultural economy.  Some newly launched initiatives like Soil Health Card Scheme, Crop Insurance Scheme, Har Khet ko Pani, More Crop per Drop are certainly targeting some basic issues of the sector but only their proper implementation and monitoring can ensure the expected results.
      • Further, the government needs to ensure that the farmer gets uninterrupted supply of critical inputs like seeds, electricity, fertilizers, irrigation pumps, credit facility at the affordable cost.  The risks of crop failure and market failure can be minimized by efficient crop insurance schemes and creation of a national agricultural market.  Also, creation of a Price Stabilization Fund for all major crops would reduce the risks of high price variability.
      • M.S Swaminathan, a renowned agricultural scientist has asked the government to implement the recommendations of National Farmers Commission to provide a Minimum Support Price (MSP) of the total cost of production plus 50% for profit.

    The link between industry and agriculture needs to be strengthened by promoting Agro Food Processing Industries. The front and backward linkages between industrial and agricultural sector have revolutionary potential to increase agricultural income.There is no dearth of potential solutions to unmake this crisis but only well intended and determined efforts we all need for.  This is time to act and act with the thought that the person who works hardest amongst us does not deserve to die. 

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