Baiswara, consisting of districts like Rae Bareli, Unnao, and Fatehpur, is home to a large number of farmers who own less than 2.5 acres of land. The pattern of farming varies, with some farmers living in villages to work full-time while others either give their lands on lease or hire someone else for harvesting the crop.
People who are into agriculture and farming know that one cannot be a farmer just by asking others to work for them. Instead, their presence is required in the villages in order to understand the patterns of agriculture. This is the reason why even people who give their lands on the lease or hire laborers, continue to commute to their villages.
Timely access to resources and raw materials such as fertilizers, seeds, labor and water for irrigation requires planning. This planning has its own dynamics. Since monsoon patterns have changed, there is no guarantee of sufficient rain when required. This has increased the dependency on canals and tube wells. However, a network of canals is not available in every place, and every farmer does not have the financial capacity to install a tube well of their own. Hence, they opt for using others’ tube wells for which they pay on an hourly basis.
During the sowing of the crops, the pressure increases, and if the power supply is not well-managed, then the challenge is even bigger as the farmers have to wait for many days. In addition to that, rain, bad quality seeds, and groups of nilgai, affect the crops resulting in less crop than expected and farmers lose the principal amount which they had invested in agriculture.
Installing a tube well is not only a complicated process but also costs somewhere between ₹60,000 – ₹ 80,000. Secondly, farmers usually borrow money during the cropping season (and at times for their household activities). In cases of illnesses, the loan amount can go really high. The repayment of such loans depends on the crop. If the crop produced is not good, then farmers borrow more in order to repay the previous loan. This is where the vicious cycle of moneylenders starts from and results in many farmers losing their lands and resources. We do not yet hear about farmers’ suicide in Rae Bareli and neighboring districts, but if the situation remains the same, we will soon start hearing the same from those places as well.
Another cause for concern is that the money allocated last year for flood relief has not reached many farmers. It is really inhumane to think of farmers as capable of waiting endlessly. This affects their lifestyle in such a way that it not only damages their present but also their future.
The present government has decided to waive off loans for farmers up to ₹1 lakh. We are yet to witness whether the promise of power supply for 18 hours a day in rural areas will be a reality or not. Both the centre and state governments need to provide farmers concessions and subsidies and ensure that there is a continuous power supply during the time of irrigation. Schemes related to roads, healthcare, and housing should be implemented on the ground; soil and water testing should be done free of cost and regularly; solar pumps, drip irrigation, and sprinklers have to be promoted; loan waivers can be a short-term solution but a long-term strategy is needed.
A few grassroots organizations are working on the ground to improve the situation of the farmers, but government and society have a role to play as well, in creating an environment where farmers have a safety net.