AGRICULTURE SERIES – PART V


This article is the fifth part of the ‘Agriculture’ series of articles. Read Part IV here.

‘Agriculture’ is a hot topic for UPSC. Questions from this topic can be expected in the essay paper or any other general studies paper. Therefore, in order to cover various aspects and dimensions of this topic we bring to you a series of posts dedicated to this specific topic. We would be analysing the topic from multiple angles and at the same time provide data, quotes etc. related to the topic.

Wherever required, we will link the article with previous parts of the series. This will not only help a better understanding of the topic but also would help in revision.


1

Increasing farmer protests –

Mass farmer protests erupted across the country in 2018.

Data on the situation of farmers –

  • National Crime Records Bureau statistics show more than 3 lakh farmers have killed themselves in the last two decades. Indebtedness was cited as the reason for more than 55% of farmers’ suicides in 2015.
  • Maharashtra, which saw the highest number of farmers’ suicides, has 57% of its farm families in debt.
  • NSSO data show more than half of all farmers are in debt, with each household owing an average of Rs. 47,000.
  • Almost 70% of agricultural households spend more than they earn and almost a quarter of all farmers live below the poverty line.
  • Census data for 2011 show the number of cultivators who own land have been overtaken by landless agricultural workers for the first time.
  • Many of these 144 million workers earn less than Rs.150 a day working in the fields, and the failure to generate jobs in other parts of the economy gives them few options.

Primary reasons for distress –

  • Increasing fragmentation of land — average plot sizes are barely more than one hectare.
  • A lack of post-production infrastructure, marketing mechanisms and supply chains.
  • Diesel prices surging 26% this year and fertilizer costs shooting up more than 15%.
  • Demonetisation was a blow to many in the rural cash economy. The move affected farmers’ ability to buy seeds and fertilizers, pay off loans and hire farm labour, according to an initial Agriculture Ministry report to a parliamentary panel (the report was later rescinded).

Policy failures

  • The M.S. Swaminathan Commission had recommended that the minimum support prices for 23 major crops be set at 1.5 times the cost of production, and the government claims it has fulfilled its promises to do so. However, the government’s calculation of the cost of production only includes actual paid-out costs and the imputed cost of family labour, while the Commission’s formula also included the imputed cost of capital and the rent on the land.
  • The government only procures wheat, rice and a limited amount of pulses and oilseeds at MSP rates, benefiting only a fraction of farmers.
  • While loan waivers are a popular poll promise and have been implemented in some States, small farmers without access to institutional credit are often left out. The cap on waivers and poor implementation has led to absurd situations such as farmers receiving cheques for just Re.1.

Solutions ahead:

There is a need to focus on ways to ensure sustainability of production, monetisation of farmers’ produce, re-strengthening of extension services and recognising agriculture as an enterprise and enabling it to operate as such by addressing structural weaknesses.

Farmers groups are urging political parties to support two private member Bills introduced in the last session of Parliament for guaranteed implementation of MSP and a comprehensive loan waiver and debt reduction scheme. However, they have also come out with a wider charter of demands, which deals with input costs, social security, farm workers employment, land rights, irrigation, agro-ecology, crop insurance and contract farming. These demands of the farmers must be carefully pondered upon.

Source: The Hindu


2

Caste, agrarian and rural identities:-

In Rajasthan, with not much farming visible in the entire region, caste is the primary marker of social identity, unlike in Madhya Pradesh, where locals display a clear sense of identity as farmers. The contrast between Mandsaur (Madhya Pradesh) and Shergarh (Rajasthan) points to the differences between two worlds. While both are rural, one is agrarian and the other is dominated by an array of non-farm activities.

Madhya Pradesh today presents a picture of rural discontent that is cementing an amorphous farmers’ identity — a sort of occupational consciousness. But the same does not hold true in Rajasthan, where the rural sector is involved in an array of occupations — from stone mining and animal husbandry to forays into the hospitality sector through highway and city restaurants. There is nothing like a farmer’s identity across the vast, parched, swathes of Rajasthan – India’s largest State by land area.

There are three types of scenarios. The first is Madhya Pradesh, where agriculture is linked to the market, with cash crops such as soyabean and cotton. Here, farming is under stress because of a fall in market prices and the impact of demonetisation. The second is seen in agrarian States such as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh (excluding western U.P.). Their agriculture is not linked to the market, with mainly food crops such as rice and wheat being produced. An arid State such as Rajasthan presents a third scenario, where agriculture is not central to rural life. An occupational identity, where people identify as farmers, is emerging in States of the first kind, such as M.P., Maharashtra and Gujarat. In States such as U.P. and Bihar, while agriculture is central to rural life, caste and religion remain dominant identity markers in the absence of strong market linkages of agriculture. In Rajasthan, in the near absence of agriculture as a key rural vocation, identity markers are still tied to caste.

Source: The Hindu