Is Rs 60,000 crore loan waiver or giveaway the answer for the suicides or miseries of the farmers in India? Can Rs 90,000 crore subsidy for the fertilizers provide real benefits to the marginal farmers? Why does not the government invest that money in agricultural infrastructure?
Again the farmers with holding above 2 hectares are not getting the waiver and Rahul as well as Sonia wish that to be expanded to include all indebted farmers. For them, the importance of vote bank is much higher than the national interest. On the other hand, the leaders such a Sarad Pawar are promising similar loan waivers for the people in all activities, be it a poultry farmers or weavers or other artisans. And why should it not be? I am sure one day, the leftists will demand it to be extended for all workforce engaged in unorganized sector too. All these categories are the major vote banks and all of them get indebted to have a living.
First of all, I don’t know if the national treasury can afford the expanded and wished level of loan waivers. And more importantly, even if it can, will it the end of misery for all theses people. And will that mean no indebtedness thereafter and no suicides?
Many opine, “Perhaps it might win some votes for Congress, but in the long run putting that money in agricultural infrastructure would have provided far better results.”
Perhaps more importantly, the farming must become or be facilitated to become profitable. After the hard work in it for year long, the farmer must earn sufficient after deducting the input cost that can make a good living for his family. Main objectives of the government or any well-wishing agencies of the farmers must provide ways and means to improve his productivity, the yield per unit land that is much lower than many countries. How can he cut the cost of inputs- fertilizers, insecticides, seeds, irrigation or labour without affecting the yield? Fertilizers, insecticides, and pesticides must be more effective and cheap. Quality of the seeds used must be the best. No one should cheat the farmer with cheap and fakes. Farming must be businesslike. And the best assistance from government agencies, research laboratories, agricultural universities and even well wishing NGOs for farmers must come forward and help him with in these areas. I heard a reputed economist claiming on a TV channel that the miseries in Vidarva is because of wrong switch over to cotton farming emulating Gujarat, though the land is not suitable for the cotton. If it is true, the social leaders must convince the farmers there to go back to the cultivation of the best suited grains. If most of the region is rain-fed, the government must invest heavily in small and big irrigation projects. Instead of waiving the loans, the government must create irrigation facilities even if it would have required Rs 2 lakh crore investments.
Further the government must facilitate with laws and systems to get rid of the middlemen to get the best price for his produce that must be nearer if not same as the global price. Be it the government fixed minimum support price or one at which private companies such as Pepsico, ITC, or Reliance buys from the farmers, it must be based on the cost of farming plus profit and not at one the farmer is made to sell because of his poor negotiating power with no alternatives. Once if the price that a farmer gets for his produce is sufficiently more that the total input cost, he will earn to meet his essential expenditures, as any one else in other profession is doing. After all he doesn’t have anything to fall back on except for some produce that comes from his fields. He buys everything else as other consumers do. He needs the quality commodities of daily use at the cheapest price and that the local traders don’t offer. And in rural India, he doesn’t have any alternative source. He wishes to send his children to school that costs. He needs medical care that costs. He gets into legal problem that costs. He is to marry her daughter and he is afraid of social taboos that cost. Even the death of a near one is costly for him because of the social pressures and to maintain prestige among whom he lives. Here the poor farmers need help from the social and religious leaders.
Farmers’ earnings require additional boost for a better living. It is possible if he switches over to some commercial crop partly. As reported, a bigha of peppermints can earn Rs 20,000 per crop against Rs 7000 with wheat. Cultivation of seasonal vegetables and cattle breeding for milk can ensure regular earning, if buyers can be arranged. It can reduce fertilizers cost too. Plantation of commercial trees can be the farmers’ fixed deposit. Mushroom farming as demonstrated by Lalmuni Devi of Patna can add to the family earning. Rural women with many skills, if supported with marketing facility, can also participate to boost the overall earning of the family. And all that will be the permanent solution.
However, I don’t agree that the farmers are not happy with the waivers announced. It will also serve another purpose. It will make those farmers who till now don’t borrow going by the age-old perception of ‘borrowing follows sorrowing’ take loans from the public banks because of the hope that one day, particularly in election year, that may get waived.
However, I will like the farmers to be provided with knowledge and skills for better output from the farming that today is totally technology-based. We can’t expect them to know the farming, as they are born in a farmer family. It is unfortunate that “only 18 per cent of the farmers across the country were aware of things like bio-fertilisers. Only 29 per cent knew about the minimum support price, a mere 5 per cent were members of self-help groups while 71 per cent did not belong to any cooperative.”
I am confident Indian farmers that may be satisfied to ride a Juggad today, will switch over to Nanos too.