Even after seven decades of independence, no major changes have been seen in the condition of the farmers of India. Rather, both farmers and agriculture are getting entangled in the crisis. The good, rich farmers who are talked about are very few. But there are a large number of farmers who are still forced to live a marginal life. Farmers have always been the base of our country’s economy. But what will happen to our agriculture when this foundation starts to weaken? It is a serious question which we need to think about.
We have been hearing the plight of farmers for a long time. How serious the situation is, can be gauged from the fact that, in the last two decades, about three lakh farmers have committed suicide. This is the reason that fierce agitations of farmers are taking place everywhere. Low income, rising costs of farming, and ignorance of government have put agricultural culture in jeopardy. For the last several years, the cost of farming has been increasing rapidly; in that proportion, the prices of crops received by the farmers have increased very rarely.
Even though PM Modi has promised to double farmers’ income by 2022, no concrete initiative has been seen in the government’s efforts so far to indicate that farmers will start looking happy in the coming years. The government has made an effort to fulfill its promise to raise the price of crops by one and a half times but has so far avoided fixing the minimum support price (MSP) of the crops as per the recommendations of the MS Swaminathan Commission. Under the current cost pricing process, the MSP proportionate to the cost price of crops has been increased by making A-2F-L the basis, while the farmer organizations have been demanding that the cost price be set by making the C-2 system, the basis and an additional benefit of fifty percent should be given on this.
It is clear that the deadlock is only about the cost pricing process. Procedure A-2F-L includes all items used in farming such as seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, wages, rent of machines, and family labor, while the C-2 arrangement covers the land with other costs. Fares are also added. Under this, there is a big difference between the price the farmers get from the pricing and the price under the current system.
A few years back, under the leadership of MP Shanta Kumar, a report was released on the condition of farming in the country. Accordingly, after the study, the committee came to the conclusion that agriculture is neither an attractive industry in India nor does it have a high status in society. The committee also found that some people are doing forced farming. Otherwise, people’s attraction towards agriculture is losing, which is not good in the national interest.
The committee, in its report submitted to the Prime Minister in January 2015, also recommended giving cash subsidy to farmers. In this, the committe mentioned that by giving such cash amount, farmers can live their life with dignity.
In the seventh decade, agriculture accounted for three-fourths of the income of a rural household. In 2015, after forty-five years, it has reduced to less than one third. Now, most of the rural households are earning more income from non-agricultural works. A big part of them has been working as a migrant labour in the metro cities like Delhi and Mumbai. Of course, our country is still agriculture-oriented; despite its urbanization and industrialization, the area of agriculture is continuously decreasing. This is the reason why our agriculture is getting caught in a deep crisis. Increasing government figures for farmer suicides also reveal this fact. The question arises that why are the people dependent on farming and embracing death, and why is this process not stopping?
In fact, the roots of this tragedy lie in the agricultural crisis itself. However, the intensity of this crisis increases due to the hit of adverse weather. Actually, agriculture was once a profitable business, but now it has become a loss business. Government policies are responsible for this situation in which the minimum understanding of taking agriculture as the mainstream of development of the country has never been shown. Whenever there is talk of getting the farmers out of the crisis, governments do not think of anything other than providing agricultural loans at a cheap interest rate. But this help in the form of debt proves to be a wound rather than an ointment.
According to a rough estimate, there are about fifteen crore farmer families in the country. Out of these, twelve crores are small and marginal farmers. In 2019-20, the Agriculture Ministry had a budget of ₹1,30,484 for farming. Ministry also announced many schemes of the government. But the misfortune is that in most states of the country, whatever government benefits are related to agriculture, they get to only the owners of the land. The toiling and landless farmer who grows crops on their farm does not get any government support related to agriculture.
There is also a problem that the farmer has to face losses in any case, even if the production is good and even when it is not. Almost every year potatoes, onions, tomatoes, and seasonal vegetables, etc. are sold at throw-away prices and when that price is not found, the farmers throw them on the streets in a fit of rage. In India, more than 60% of farmers are still cultivating by traditional methods. The government promotes industries in every way, but in agriculture only by making populist announcements, it fully understands the responsibility. The recommendations made by the Swaminathan Commission in its report to uplift the agriculture sector and improve the economic condition of the farmers were also not fully implemented by the government.
Governments changed, but the economic condition of the farmers could not improve. There is only one main reason for this — the lack of will power of the government.
Even today, the average annual income of a farmer is only ₹20,000. Till now, the schemes made for the welfare of farmers and the way they have been implemented have been done keeping the vote bank in mind. Till agriculture is not given the status of the industry, agriculture will continue to groan, rural youth will continue to migrate from farming and farmers will continue to commit suicide. Therefore, saving and facilitating dying agriculture should be the biggest economic concern of governments. This is possible only when the people in power take special care of agriculture and farming while deciding development plans.
Agriculture has been the strong foundation of our economy — we have been hearing this for years. But laxity in the implementation of policies is only weakening the roots of this important center of the economy. If proper efforts are not made in this direction, farmers will be disillusioned with farming. Therefore, to solve the problems of the farmers, the government needs to make fresh reforms at many levels.