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Farmers’ protest march

Having faced a tight situation and the wrath of the government and the banks, there is no end to the problems faced by the farmers in this country. No one is able to make or break the ticklish situation. Instead of solving the woes of the farmers, the problems are precipitated and touching a point of no return.  Five farmers died in MP and in Maharashtra and the farmers vow to stand by their Mandsaur brothers and there is chaos all over the state. Vegetable prices are shooting up and the middlemen are reaping a rich harvest, whereas farmers are in distress.

If the situation continues in the same vein for some more time, it will become irreparable and more deaths will take place in the name of agitation and that will not yield desired results. The Maharashtra government has reported 257 suicides by farmers in the State between January and March this year resulting from the agrarian crisis. As many as 114 cases of suicides were reported from the Aurangabad region, followed by Amravati (102), Nagpur (30), and Nashik (9), the data showed. Recent cases of suicides were reported due to the recent untimely rains and hailstorm. Maharashtra is taking necessary measures for development of the farm sector with the Central government supplementing the efforts through appropriate policy measures and budgetary support and still farmers face the heat. The Centre has taken several steps to revitalise the agriculture sector and improve the condition of the farming community on a sustainable basis by increasing investment, improving farm practices, rural infrastructure and delivery of credit, technology and other inputs, extension, and marketing among others.

The problem in Indian agriculture was never about production but about pricing, storage, and distribution. Loan waivers are not a solution agreed but when we cut out the middlemen and take care of our farming communities things would get better. Farm Loan waiver may be a relief. But real solution lies in ensuring economies of scales of production and Minimum Support Price.

This year, the Ministry has proposed deliberations to discuss the challenges that the farmers face in crop cultivation, animal husbandry, dairying, and fisheries. The aim is to work towards an action plan using better access to credit, skill development, and entrepreneurial opportunities. The agriculture sector is characterised by instability in incomes because of various types of risks involved in production, market, and prices. The National Commission of Farmers (2006), chaired by MS Swaminathan had pointed out that something “very serious and terribly wrong is happening in the countryside”. The agriculture growth rates have been unsteady in the recent past. While it was 1.5 per cent in 2012-13, it rose to 5.6 per cent in 2013-14. In 2014-15, the rate dipped to (-) 0.2 per cent while in 2015-16 it was 0.7 per cent. The provisional estimate puts it at 4.9 per cent in 2016-17. The trend reflects the distress in the agriculture sector.

This turned agriculture into an unprofitable occupation and compelled farmers, especially the small and marginal, to borrow costly money from informal sources of credit, which deepened the crises. While the farming sector has its own set of risks, like any other economic activity, to increase and ensure a stable flow of income to farmers it is vital to manage and reduce the risks by analysing, categorising and addressing them. There lies the real success.

(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)
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