India has set a very ambitious target of doubling farmers’ income by 2022. However, there are several challenges that will have to be overcome in order to achieve this goal.
The small and fragmented land holdings and high dependence of farmers on monsoon rains are examples of such impediments. They make operating smallholdings often non-viable and farming a non-profitable business or enterprise.
Farming deems to be an occupation in a sector marked by large-scale disguised unemployment and unending uncertainties at every stage of operations. Income flows, both in absolute and relative terms, are intermittent and inadequate for supporting farm households throughout the year.
The country has also witnessed a sharp increase in the number of farmers’ suicides in the last two decades mainly due to the losses from farming and highly fluctuating farming incomes; these factors have reduced people’s interest in farming and farm investments, and are also forcing more and more cultivators, particularly younger age groups, to leave farming.
In order to double farmers’ income, there is a need to increase farm productivity, improve market access, and also develop the industrial and service sectors, where the surplus farmers can find work.
The uncertainties of prices (both input and output) and markets, coupled with adverse impacts of misguided policy actions and climate change, often impede with any positive governmental intervention and farm households sink back into poverty, indebtedness, and distress. Bans on rice, wheat, onions, potatoes, etc and large imports of maize and edible oils have significantly hurt the Indian farmers as they are not able to compete with high quality and cheap foreign goods. It is high time that India steers its attention towards innovation.
The government has to work with farmers to infuse knowledge and technology. India must use technological tools to enhance productivity and ensure that the economic benefits of increased production reach all the farmers. Moreover, the general perception that agriculture is not a good economic proposition, must be reversed. In the recent times, the Government of India has taken some crucial steps toward doubling of farmers’ income: raising the minimum support price (MSP), introducing Soil Health Cards, and launching overarching schemes like the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) and e-NAM for National Agriculture marketing.
The government also needs to work on improving the present state of inadequate infrastructure and extension services. Reluctance of farmers to work in groups or their inability to sustain cooperatives is a major challenge when it comes to selling produce in the market as quantity supplied by individual farmers does not match with the high expectations of wholesale purchasers.
It’s also observed that the money borrowed from the government by the farmers is often used for other purposes and the failure of farmers to return credit to the government is increasing the government’s financial burden as it spends huge sums of money for this purpose. The government needs to think of novel methods to effectively address these policy and implementation level challenges; otherwise, the promise of doubling farmers’ income by 2022 will ring hollow.