With seven decades of Independence, the farmers of India are yet to celebrate the ‘Tryst with destiny’. The dawn of freedom, economic liberty and social equality is yet to light up in millions of Her subjects, who are toiling decade after decade, season after season, day after day in the farmland.
Salute to millions of green warriors, uncovering their bare chest to unfavourable externalities and unpredictable challenges but shield us every day and every meal from fear, hunger and starvation. Yet, they are deceived of freedom and fortunes from their unceasing sufferings.
Freedom from Middle men
Indian landholdings are so small that they make very little marketable surplus. Between 2000-01 and 2010-11, the average size of holdings declined from 1.3 ha to 1.2 ha. Taking the produce to Government mandi will be a burden as transportation costs, storage costs add up. So they sell it to middle men at ‘distress’ price. The middlemen will make it to the mandi and get lucrative prices that is often not shared with farmers. Though Government is trying to bridge the gap between producers and consumers with technology, it is apathetic. So far, only 470 mandis in 14 states have been integrated with e-NAM, which is the virtual pan India Agriculture commodity market.
Freedom from Poverty
As many as 22.50 per cent of the farmers live below official poverty line. The principle of Sarvodhaya– establishment of a whole network of such self-supporting village communities as envisioned by our Father of Nation is hardly successful. Poor access to credit, lack of modern technologies, poor market price / crop failures, low farm income are the never ending factors constituting the vicious cycle of Indian farmer. The speed with which agriculture sector reduces rural poverty is at least twice than what the rest of the economy does. But Agriculture sector receives least attention and unfortunately poverty eradication is perceived as forcing farmers out of agriculture that ends up in dire consequences.
The speed with which agriculture sector reduces rural poverty is at least twice than what the rest of the economy does. But Agriculture sector receives least attention and unfortunately poverty eradication is perceived as forcing farmers out of agriculture that ends up in dire consequences.
Freedom from Chemical Farming
Economic survey 2017-18 rightly identifies Indian Agriculture as a ‘Victim’ of its past success. Past success of Green revolution has put Agriculture sector into Chemical farming, predominantly dependent on high yielding hybrids which is also an input intensive unsustainable farming. Farmers and Agricultural Research Institutions are still struggling to get out of that Chakravyug. Government move to identify innovative models like Zero budget farming to promote sustainable agriculture is welcoming but it spends 500 crore to promote organic farming and 75,000 crore in synthetic fertilizer subsidy.
Freedom from Male Stereotype
Agricultural sector employs 80% of all economically active women in India. According to the reports released by NSSO, about 18% of farm families in India are headed by a woman. Despite their energetic contribution to agriculture, they are regarded widely as zero-wage and underpaid employees of their farms and they control over less than 13% of the land where they practice farming. The pending of Women Farmers Entitlement Bill, 2011 is an example for deaf ears towards women in agriculture.
Freedom from agrarian cliché
Farming as an enterprise is hardly acceptable in India. Still majority are subsistence farmers with obsolete technology. As per NSSO data, every year around 22 lakh agricultural labourers leave the sector. At the same time, it indicates that the number of cultivators declined at the rate of 1.80 per cent per year during 2004-05 to 2011-12. This had only left out the population vulnerable to exploitation as low skilled workforce, illegal migrants and domestic workers. Ignorance that farming as a mere source of income must be changed to Agriculture as Rural development, Livelihood security and successful entrepreneurship model. This could only retain the millions of unemployed rural youths in Agriculture.
Freedom from Populist Policy
The inherent weakness of Indian Agriculture is partly attributed to Colonial exploitation. The early days of Independence focused on upliftment of the sector by land reforms, market stabilisation, and remunerative prices cum Government procurement of crop produce. But soon Agricultural planning has gone to back seat, now farmers constitute a huge vote bank and are lured by short term gestures like Bank loan waivers, MSP hikes, subsidies, etc., Recently OCED report also reiterates that despite larger subsidies there was 6 per cent annual reduction in gross farm revenues in 2014-16 period. Long term investments like irrigation, supply chain management, credit facilities has to be encouraged to help farmers out of historical sufferings.
With Agricultural planning going to the back seat, now farmers constitute a huge vote bank and are lured by short term gestures like Bank loan waivers, MSP hikes, subsidies, etc.,
Freedom from Low productivity
There exists a huge yield gap in Indian Agriculture. Partly attributed to dryland farming. Even after seven decades of Indian planning only 45 per cent of farmland is under irrigation. The other factors of low farm productivity are poor mechanisation, poor seed replacement rate, improper use of farm inputs and so on. Recently, Climate change has also added to the list affecting farm output deliberately. Economic Survey points out that farmer income losses from climate change could be between 15 percent and 18 percent on average, but raising between 20 percent to 25 percent in unirrigated lands.
The freedom struggle continues even after seven decades of Sovereignty in every household of rural India, every farmland and every agricultural labour. Here we are indebted to full-fill the dreams of our National forefathers. Their dream of ‘Poverty free India’, ‘Gram Swaraj’, ‘Jai kisan’ has to be taken unto us and we shall strive to accomplish earliest with all our strength and will by contributing back to Agriculture and Agrarians. Jai Hind !