Farming uncertainties, Suicides: Issues and Way-outs

Recent hailstorm and untimely heavy rain damaging the ready-to-harvest crops, death of Rajasthan farmer as well as the prediction of deficient monsoon has gone against the passing of Land Bill giving a emotional tool in opposition arsenal to hit at government. Should the bill be pursued for boosting the growth story of India and attracting the investments both domestic as well other global direction in the system?

‘माँगे बारिद देही जल राम चन्द्र के राज’ would have been the only way out to get rid of the deadly effect on farm produce from draught, excess rain and hailstorm. Unfortunately that is not possible till now. But a family of farmer can get rid of its ill- effect with some additional engagements. For the family with smaller landholding, it is essential to breed and rear some cows, buffaloes, goats, pigs, or to have poultry for sufficient additional earning. Even growing different vegetables, commercial plants and trees or fishery in one portion of the land holding can reduce the misery of untimely natural calamity for farm produce to certain extent. Other non-agriculture skill and engagement such as stitching and knitting or food processing can also be of help with its regular small earning. It requires initiative to skill oneself. But the initiative must come from the individual susceptible to the risk with encouragement from the authority including right NGOs. But over the period, a new mindset has grown based on vote politics that almost demands doles, compensations, charity, waivers. Can the politicians shun this? Perhaps not, as they and their favourites are the beneficiaries as middle men. It requires honest discussion and heart searching.

Farmers’ suicides in a such a large number is a national shame. Though the government gets the blame, is not the issue a ‘very complex’ one as RBI governor called it? Naturally, no one can have a control on unpredictable natural disasters. Perhaps the most effective solution will be effective crop insurance system. Every bank or institutional loan may get tied up with insurance to take care of natural disaster. However, this also will require a fool-proof delivery system. Besides, have the suicides someway linked to the gradual transformation of farming society from a joint family system to nuclear one? Can a multi crop farming or multiple engagements in some non-agricultural activities take care of a good living even after a natural disaster? Can a group of experts come out with some innovative and practical suggestions to overcome this national shame? Can every farmer with loan be provided with effective education and counselling to face the situation? The world does end with few disastrous losses. Even after all that, one can rise and prosper. Perhaps the main issue is ‘नहिं दरिद्र सम दुख जग माहीं’ and every thing must be aimed at eliminating the poverty systematically. And the cause of the poverty is his helplessness. Everything a farmer buys is at market price, while he sells his produce at minimal price.

As some has talked of the hard truth: ‘farming, throughout history, everywhere in the world, has made no commercial sense except when accompanied by a huge exploitation of farm labour by people owning very large tracts of land. The same investments of capital, time and effort have yielded huge multiples of income elsewhere, as traders will testify.The ‘terms of trade’ – the ratio of what a farmer pays to others and what he receives from them – are in farmers’ favour only very rarely.

Some Facts of Agrarian Crisis
1. There are nearly 120 million cultivators and 144 million landless agricultural labourers. Between 2001 and 2011, 9 million people quit cultivation but 38 million joined the ranks of agricultural labourers.
2.Data collected in 2012-13 shows the shocking condition of farmers owning less than a hectare of land. Although such small holders make up nearly 83% of cultivator households, their average monthly income-expenditure shows that they are all in the red -their expenditure is more than income.
3. In India, out of the net sown area of 141 million hectares just 65 million hectares is the net irrigated area. This means that about 54% of the sown area is dependent on rains.among all farmers with irrigated fields, 71% were using groundwater while only 17% could use water from irrigation canals.
4. About 103 million hectares of land is cultivated in India but it is divided into a staggering 449 million plots of land, some of them just a few hundred square feet in size. Just 6% of cultivated land is in 10 hectare or larger holdings.
5. 60 per cent of India’s population is employed in agriculture. Half this number owns no land at all.76 per cent of those employed in agriculture wanted to do something else; 61 per cent preferred an urban job. 56 per cent of small farmers – those with less than 100 square metres of farmland – earned the majority of their income in the form of wages from an external job.

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