Small Farmers Of Indian Agriculture: Indebted And Awaiting Revolution

Posted on July 22, 2012 in Society

By Anjum Dhamija:

Remembering the childhood days, we always read India as an agrarian economy which essentially meant that agriculture is the soul of our economy. That was the story some 10 years back and probably, the textbooks had content from an even older time. Now, the so called development has come into the picture of modern India. Agriculture doesn’t go in sync with our parameters for development. No doubt, there are very little farming communities left in our country who rely solely on agriculture for their bread and butter. Today, they prefer to migrate to cities and live with the drudgery of slum life than staying back in their own land with authority.

Well, very naturally, our first comment goes to government policies which are not doing enough to encourage farming. But, mind you, it is not the case. The agricultural policies have been one of the most supportive in our country. Government backs agriculture with a minimum support price for agricultural commodities, and is always above what market mechanism determines to be optimum. Even if this is not enough, there are fair price shops run via Public Distribution System in all the villages which provide all food essentials at a highly subsidized price. Moreover, the entire agricultural income, how much so ever it may be, is exempt from the tax burden. Anyone with a little knowledge of economics can now easily peep in to find out that how much tax that we all pay is actually going to support agriculture.

Despite the benevolence, the share of agriculture in our GDP has fallen to around 15% from around 48% at the time of independence. The boost of industrial sector does remain a factor in that. Along with this, there is a fundamental flaw, not in the support system, but in the very ideology of this support system. We have always been proud of green revolution which saved millions from starvation. It almost doubled up our cereal production with the introduction of large farm machinery, high yielding varieties and synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.

What about our small farmer, with small landholding, and no other capital? From where is he supposed to get investment for the modern day farming? Well, there come the rural banks and other cooperative societies who could provide a credible source of investment for the poor Indian farmer, and of course, keeping their land as collateral. Yes, now they are in the vicious cycle, and they end up losing their land to the devil of indebtedness. These farmers who used to grow to eat i.e. farm for subsistence have to leave their villages and adapt to city life, rather slum life. Nowadays, farming is all about large landholders of green revolution.

So, the solution demands a more intrinsic approach. Indeed, there are a few leaders who are still leading the silent agricultural revolution at the grassroots. One of the prominent agricultural practices, known as System of Rice Intensification (SRI), has led the way for this resurgence. SRI is a package of guidelines on paddy cultivation in the traditional way with scientific logic. There are young farmers from Bihar who have set world record in paddy production using these fundamental guidelines. Surprisingly, Jyoti Manjhi, a women farmer from Bihar has been the harbinger of this innovative technique in her region. For them, the revolution is yet to come.