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62% Farmers Willing To Quit Farming! What Is Bothering The ‘Annadatas’?

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By Gayaz Ahmed:

The Vidarbha region in Maharashtra witnessed yet another heart-breaking tragedy, where 12 farmers committed suicide in just 72 hours due to their crop losses. These cotton farmers have been agitating for an increase in the Minimum Support Price of cotton.

farmer india

If this scenario continues to prevail, then India, the world’s second largest food producer, will be facing a situation where farmers are found to quit farming or even worse –‘Quit their lives’. In a country where more than half of the population directly depends on farming, this is a serious concern.

Recent statistics show that the percentage of agriculturists willing to quit farming and move to cities is a whopping 62%. This growing distress and declining confidence in these small and landless farmers is due to low returns on profits that they are getting. Adding to this, there is our dependency on nature and poorly maintained irrigation systems. Ultimately, the current agricultural practices are neither economically nor environmentally sustainable and hence India’s yields for many agricultural commodities are dropping.

With no financial assets to nullify the losses and no other means of income to survive the day-to-day expenditures, most of the farmer families (about 61%) have ‘only two meals a day’. So, whatever might be the reason, it is always the farmer and his family that is going to suffer. To shed light on these issues, the year 2014 was christened as the ‘International Year of Family Farming’ by the UN.

Mere general fixes like subsidies, procurement policies, minimum support prices (MSP) have been failures, and loan waivers have not served their purpose as the prices obtained by the farmers are far below those charged to the urban consumers.

Recently, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Raghuram Rajan said that debt waiver schemes of central and state governments have not benefited farmers as they restricted credit flow subsequently. About 60% of the farmers take loan only to purchase fertilizers, seeds, pesticides etc.

But surprisingly, it is the basic minimum requirements like education and health that emerged as the major responsibilities that worry Indian farmers. Contrary to our general opinion, we find a low proportion of farmers who are worried about repayment of loans. Interestingly, 39 per cent of the respondents were not worried at all about repayment of loan.

Similarly, awareness about Minimum Support Price (MSP), under which purchases are made from the farmers at the rates declared by the Government of India, is also low. Approximately 62 per cent of farmers were not aware of MSP. Among those who had heard about MSP, most said that they were not satisfied with the rates of crops decided by the government.

America exports large quantities of food grains and fruits like Californian apples and Washington apples to India even with less than 1% of the population engaged in agriculture. Their agricultural practices, policies and perspectives are quite different from that of ours.

The main reason for this inferior productivity in our country is illiteracy and lack of minimum awareness about the crops and schemes. Almost three-fourths of the farmers in our country were completely ignorant about any information or help from the agricultural department on these matters.

These thing can be only sorted out with major reforms, which must be taken instantly. Firstly, the Indian farmers should be given their due regard and status. Only 24 per cent youth belonging to farmer households are interested in continuing farming, while 76 per cent would prefer to do some other work rather than farming. The difficulty in deriving profits and the society’s approach towards farmers may account for this situation.

We obviously cannot feed our 121 crore population with this situation in the near future.

The youth must be brought back into agricultural practices and must be the one to question the government when they do not get deserved favours. Their perspective about sustainable agriculture must be scientific and technology driven. With smartphones penetrating the villages, the possibility to get updates about the weather conditions, seed rates, market demand, fertilizer configuration etc. is within the fingertips. Even the sustainable usage of limited water resources can be attained through technology.

It is the responsibility of all of us to carry initiatives like these to raise the profile of family farming and smallholder farming. Let us hope 2015 brings smile across these ‘annadatas’.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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