Despite bumper monsoon and a good harvest in the year 2016-17 the country has witnessed farmer’s agitation.
WHY IN NEWS? – Case Study of Farmer’s Agitation
Despite bumper monsoon and a good harvest in the year 2016-17 the country has witnessed farmer’s agitation. Ironically, the epicenters of these agitations are economically sound areas of the three BJP ruled states (Maharashtra, MP, and Rajasthan).
- A farmer does not gain anything even if agriculture sector per se do well. Value realization to the farmers is very poor even if the consumer pays a high amount for the agricultural commodities.
- The country is encountering the farmer’s agitation despite agriculture being declared as one of the focus sectors by Modi government with the target of doubling the farm income by 2022.
LARGER PICTURE OF FARM DISTRESS
- Since past two decades, Indian agriculture has shown the signs of distress. Rampant farmers suicides across the country in past two decades correctly portrays the dismal picture of the Indian Agriculture. The recent farmer’s agitation in many states must be analyzed in the context of this deeply rooted farm distress.
- The major causes of the agrarian crisis are unfinished agenda in land reform, quantity and quality of water, technology fatigue, access, adequacy and timeliness of institutional credit, and opportunities for assured and remunerative marketing. Adverse meteorological factors add to these problems.
- The per unit area productivity of Indian agriculture is much lower than other major crop-producing countries. This is a major impediment in enhancing the farm income.
- Out of the gross sown area of 192 million ha, rainfed agriculture contributes to 60 percent of the gross cropped area and 45 percent of the total agricultural output.
- Large-scale use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides has had an extremely adverse impact on our soil and water. Deep drilling by tube wells to grow these water-intensive crops has happened without any reference whatsoever to India’s unique hydrogeology, where nearly two-thirds of our land is underlain by hard rock formations which have very low rates of natural recharge.
ANALYSIS OF FARM DISTRESS
- Two factors that have transformed the positive state of Indian agriculture into a negative state for peasants- the rising costs of production and the fluctuating prices of farm commodities. Studies have shown the price that the farmers are getting, even in the government estimates, are lower than the cost of production.
- It is the middlemen (small, big and corporate players) who are the biggest beneficiary of the agricultural value chain. The players at both the extreme ends (the farmers and the consumers) of the value chain are at the receiving end.
- The economic reforms opened the Indian farmers to global competition. It has given them access to expensive and promising biotechnology. Unfortunately, this was not complemented with higher prices of their produce, access to bank loans, crop insurances or irrigation.
- In 1998, the World Bank’s structural adjustment policies forced India to open up its seed sector to global corporations like Cargill, Monsanto, and Syngenta. The global corporations changed the input economy overnight. Farm saved seeds were replaced by corporate seeds which needed fertilizers and pesticides and could not be saved. Multinational companies like Monsanto peddle expensive genetically modified (GM) seeds and other input materials.
- GM food companies have come to India and have made deep inroads into our rural markets. No doubt they bring new opportunities but it seems the risks are too high.
THE ROAD AHEAD
- While there is no doubt we need to create more jobs in manufacturing, we must not forget that even in the year 2050, according to the latest projections, there will still be 800 million people living in rural India. So solutions have to be found for agriculture — and fast.
- The recommendation of the MS Swaminathan Committee related to MSP (i.e. Cost of Production + 50%) must be immediately implemented. This was the election promise of incumbent Modi government.
- We need to transition to a more ecologically resilient agriculture. This becomes even more urgent in the context of climate change. Large-scale evidence now exists that nonchemical agriculture has become a profitable alternative. As farmers reduce their dependence on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, they slowly emerge from the ecological vicious cycle and are also able to dramatically reduce their costs of cultivation, without compromising on production.
- We require continued diversification to other forms of livelihood, such as livestock and fisheries, among the fastest-growing segments of the rural economy, which could be hurt by recent policy changes. We must also shift focus away from water-intensive rice and wheat.
- We need to ensure access to credit and crop insurance, especially to our 85% small and marginal farmers.
Analysis By – Wakeman Neutron