Living in a country where cattle is worshiped as God and about 55% of the population is dependent on agriculture as their main source of income, the returns remain low. While urbanisation can be cited as a reason, the fact that agriculture is no more a profitable sector remains the biggest explanation. Infrastructure costs are running high, with its maintenance cost and capital investment only adding on to the farmers’ distress. The average recovery rate of investments by an average Indian farmer is only 30%.
Another ground for low productivity is small holdings of land with farmers. In India, more than two-thirds of the crop lack proper irrigation facilities, even though India is the second largest irrigated country after China. Improper irrigation can also lead to other difficulties affecting yield like soil erosion, salinity, etc. Agriculture yield in India is much less than in other grain-producing nations like China, US and Brazil, though India is the second highest producer of paddy in the world. Farmers going for one crop that is priced high at that time draws overproduction, a price crash and huge losses to farmers. This is known as the sugar cycle of glut and shortage, but now it affects every other commodity.
India has been facing the issue of farmer strikes for quite some time now. Farmer strikes have become one of the most prolonged news in the economy. The demands which are put forward by the farmers are loan waiver, fair price (we cannot determine what a fair price can be in an open economy), a guarantee of crop purchase, pension, etc.
The word ‘Annadaata’ is often used in media and by people who advocate for the farmers whenever the march is organized. We also listen and read that farmers are true humanitarians because they provide us with bread. It has become routine that after every three months, we see these types of march/ strike demonstration either in Delhi or in Mumbai. Every time when these marches come to the city, people want to test the level our human rights, emotions and compassion.
The demand for loan waiving has neither yielded any result anywhere nor has it solved any problem in our country. The perception is that farmers take the loan for agriculture, is more of the truism. Framers borrow heavily from bank/ private lenders for their personal expenses, marriage, etc. too. So, all loans are not directly related to agriculture.
The population that lives in the city are also in same or in worse conditions but we usually do not pay equal attention to them. They make the roads, buildings for us, where we reside. That is just as important for any living society. The labourers who load/ unload ration from the truck are also contributing enough to get our sympathy but we do not think of them. Because they do not fit well in our emotional world.
Why we should have an objection to the word ‘Annadaata’? Why do we have the term ‘Annadaata’ for those people who are engaged in the occupation of farming? Do we have a similar term for all kind of professionals, who provide us water, for those who make the road, who build the building, who clean our surrounding, who work in our offices?
I do not think that we pay the same gratitude to the other professionals as we do to our farmers. The problem with the problem of farmers is that we do not acknowledge farming as a profession. we are only trying to prove over the years that farming is the holiest profession which some people do in pursuit of charity, which is not true.
We have to learn to accept that farming is also an occupation which people choose for-profit motive or under compulsion when they do not have any other viable choice. You are not doing farming to feed anyone, you are doing farming to feed yourself and for some monetary benefit. A population which is living in a rural area does not become entitled to loan waiving because they are living in the village and engage in agriculture work. If we are thinking of providing some benefit to one type of occupation, we should also extend the same kind of benefit to other occupation.
We have another misconception that agriculture is providing job to population, but in reality, in 2018 the jobs are coming from the service sector and manufacturing sector. It is true that a larger community is having agriculture land but all the people of the community are not dependent on that land. We have to define somewhere that who will come under the category of farmers and who are not the farmers. If farmers are expecting the same benefit what manufacturing or service sector are getting then they should also be prepared for tax on farming and promise of job etc as well as the vagaries of an open market economy where the government has only a role of regulator rather than that of a price controller. The comparison of industry and farming may sound emotional for someone but unfortunately, it shows how irrational we are.
The demand of MSP of the farmer can give sort of support to farming occupations. The current central government are also doing some significant work in this direction. But as we have adopted an open economy, we can not control the price of the commodity. If you give fix price for each crop, it is the people who will bear the cost of inflation. The concept of e-Nam and Bhawantar are a really good initiative but you should not expect to double the income through the MSP. It further led us in the sorry state of the economy.
The problem with us is that we do not want to accept the reality. The reality is that farmers of today’s time are not a wise professional. Indian farmers cultivate on small land which cannot give them any profit whatsoever as the industrialists get. A shop owner, industry owner also face loss in their respective filed but they face it by themselves. Another reality is that the farmers are the biggest political community. They have bigger vote bank than any caste/community put together and it is very easy to provoke them on these lines, but we should also understand that we can not give them the solution they seek as we do not have them either. The freebies that political parties are asking and governments are bending over to give will ultimately cost ordinary people most. If inflation shoots up, it is the common people including farmers will bear the heat.
The whole emotional discourse also shows us how bad our economic orientation is. The farming can be only beneficial if the farmer has enough knowledge about soil, crops and weather which most the farmers do not possess. Although now state and central governments both are working aggressively on this front. if farmers have the better mechanism of irrigation and have access to better irrigational infrastructure, then only we can expect some profit for the farmers. But we don’t want to work in that area, we believe in exhausting the emotions of the people.
The current efforts should be in same lights where political opponents of ruling party rallying behind for the formers not for their benefit but for only political benefit. The benefit which they are asking for the farmers is not the benefit. It is a slow poison which will not only harm the interest of the farmers but also destroy the Indian economy too.