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While The GDP Shrank In The Last Quarter, Agriculture Grew. How Did This Happen?

This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

The agriculture sector registered growth despite the pandemic’s impact; now it’s time for the government to support it.

Agriculture is considered the backbone of any country’s economics and plays an important role in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of a nation, particularly India, where the agrarian sector contributes a substantial share. In India, agriculture is one of the primary sectors, considering a large part of the country’s population is directly or indirectly linked with the rural economy. Although not as much as the population working in the industrial sector, the agriculture sector also does generate substantial employment.

Covid-19 impacted almost all the economy-booster sectors, and agriculture was one of the worst-affected areas. The inevitable lockdowns further derailed economic schedules, planning, the education sector and, of course, the agriculture sector for various factors. Yet, due to certain reasons, agriculture did manage to recover quickly from this impact and emerged as one of the few sectors that registered growth.

The agriculture sector contributes about 17% to India’s GDP. The overall GDP witnessed a 23.9% decline and 7.3% shrink in the April-June quarter of the fiscal year 2020-2021. Despite issues such as broken supply chains, scanty rainfall and increased input costs, with Covid-19 adding up to all these woes, the agriculture sector recorded a growth of 3.4% Gross Value Added (GVA) in the first quarter of 2020-21 as compared to that of 2019-20.

The agriculture sector has added Rs 14,815 crore in the first three months, a new record of 15.2% of the overall economic growth. Due to this, agriculture has attracted huge private investment. A slight positive impact of Covid-19, however, has been the improved quality of the air and water, as revealed by various environmental indicators.

The journey of this GVA growth has not been easy for the agriculture sector. The country-wide lockdown, last year, came at a terrible time for farmers. It was the harvesting season and sowing period for wheat (Rabi crop) and rice (Kharif crop). The lockdown created a shortage of labour as well as farm equipment. Availability of labour required for harvesting wheat and paddy sowing emerged as a major challenge for many farmers. The demand was high but the manpower availability was significantly low because migrant labour had started moving back to their native places aiming to be with their families at such difficult and scary times.

In 2020, an estimated 10 million migrant workers or labourers returned to their native places after the nationwide lockdown was imposed. Due to an acute shortage of labour, there was a considerable shift towards direct seeding of rice as compared to transplanting, with an aim to reduce the expenditure as well as water consumption. The unavailability of seeds, fertilisers, pesticides further added to the problems. That resulted in lower production.

As the second wave began to emerge, the government’s introduction of three contentious farm legislation last year was seen as rubbing salt on farmers’ wounds. Agriculture is one of the only sectors that survived the Covid-19 pandemic, to some extent. The introduction of the agricultural reform bills (as the union government claims these to be) during the pandemic played a crucial role. Farmers became psychologically insecure due to the farm bills. Farmers believe the three Bills are making them vulnerable to corporate exploitation. It has been nine months since the farmers have hit the roads and their agitation seeking a roll-back of the three central farm legislation continues.

migrants india
In 2020, an estimated 10 million migrant workers or labourers returned to their native places after the nationwide lockdown was imposed.

At the onset of the crisis, the food supply chains were strained as many countries imposed restrictions on the movement of goods and people across and within borders. The restrictions still continue in certain categories. As a result, the challenge was not the availability of food but also accessibility.

The problems during Covid-19 in agriculture are primarily related to: (a) Labour availability (b) Marketing (c) Transportation availability as well for the operation of markets (d) Purchasing essentials (Pesticides, weedicides, pumps etc.) (e) Price rise of seeds and fertilisers (f) floods that caused significant damage to crops in some states, and (g) Locust attack.

The poor and hapless sections of society continue to be the worst hit in any disaster or in a pandemic. Around 85% of the Indian farm households comprise small and marginal farmers and have a significant part of the population as landless farm labourers. Welfare measures to contain any damage from Covid-19 are definitely going to help them recover.

The focus of the government in this situation must be to protect the lives of every citizen, but at the same time ensuring that farmers who feed the entire nation (Annadaata), are also duly protected. People whose livelihoods are dependent on agriculture and allied activities lost their income opportunities from informal employment during this lockdown period, have to be provided with alternative avenues such as substantial financial aid till the economy gets back to the scale where it was during pre-Covid times.

Writers: Sumedha Sharma and Mohit Kumar Ashnani

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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.

Read more about her campaign. 

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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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