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Unrest among farmers is biggest worry for India’s agrarian economy – Part II

Farmers say that the government’s failure to anticipate the larger crop isn’t their fault, and a loan waiver would help them offset their losses because they heeded the Prime Minister’s appeal but were then let down by the government. Farmers’ organisations admit a waiver is not the ultimate solution, but they say it will have at least a soothing effect and bring farmers back into the credit system. Farm loan waivers in the States ruled either by the BJP or the allies of the NDA have prompted them to ask, why not in Maharashtra?

The BJP-led State government has always maintained that it supports the loan waiver. But it has also said it will announce the decision at the ‘right’ time. Devendra Fadnavis earlier formed a panel to study the Uttar Pradesh loan waiver. For the rest of the demands, it has passed the buck onto the Centre. When the strike started, the State government called a meeting of selected leaders and announced it would declare a waiver package by October 31. The meeting, held without informing all organisations representing the agitating farmers, backfired: the leaders who attended the meeting were dubbed “back-stabbers” by the farmers.

Maharashtra is in a financial crunch. For 2017-18, the estimated revenue deficit is likely to cross Rs 4,000 crore. Excise revenue has dropped by Rs 7,000 crore after the Supreme Court’s decision to ban liquor outlets near highways. Implementing the Seventh Pay Commission report for State government employees will cost Rs 21,000 crore. Ambitious infrastructure projects — the Mumbai-Nagpur superhighway (Rs 40,000 crore), urban Metro projects (over Rs 1 lakh crore) — and the Shivaji statue (Rs 3,800 crore) add to the bill. Against these expenditures, bringing over 31 lakh farmers back into the credit system would require Rs 30,000 crore. The government will have hard choices ahead.

Meanwhile, Indian farmers faced multitude of problems before independence and also after independence. The former is due to colonial exploitation and later due to middle men exploitation.

Indian landholdings are so small that makes little marketable surplus. This makes them to go for subsistence agriculture and also difficult for mechanisation. Most of the farmers are left with small volume of produce. Taking them to Government mandi will be a burden as transportation costs, storage costs add up. So they sell it to middlemen at distress price. The middlemen will make it to Mandi and get lucrative prices that are often not shared with farmers.

Indian monsoon is always a gamble of monsoon. If it doesn’t rain, farmers will get adversely affected due to drought and famine. You might think he will be happy if it rains adequately. But the answer is NO. Because, in one extreme his crop would be flooded or he would not get good price due to high supply in market. This happened in 2017, where prices of onion, pulses went down due to good production after two years of below normal monsoon. So, whether rains or no rains, farmers suffer.

Past success of green revolution has put agriculture sector into ‘chakravyuh’ of hybrid seeds – urea dumping farming. Farmers and research institutions are still struggling to get out of that unsustainable – high input cost farming. Moreover, no policy measures have been evolved to protect or help women farmers who predominantly suffer in agriculture. Agriculture will not develop if the schemes, policies, inventions and benefits don’t reach the other half of agrarians who happens to be women farmers.

Economists make hue and cry when farmers demand farm loan waiver. But they need to think about farm credit and credit accessibility to farmers. Nearly 40 per cent of farmers are getting their farm loans through formal sources. Rest all are dependent on moneylenders and land owners. The crop insurance policy has long been less favourable to farmers. We have to wait to see the result of Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana. The huge risk and uncertainty involved in agriculture make it hard for farmers to get out of poverty.

Climate change may have led to over 59,000 farmers’ suicide over the last 30 years in India and agrarian distress in India goes in length and breadth about the issue. Government policies like MSP favouring certain crops, poor allocation for agricultural R&D – less than 1 per cent of GDP is very low compared to the other emerging economies. Weak extension networks and supply infrastructure — all add to farmers’ worry.

Hope this digital savvy government will make a similar push in agriculture sector to solve long – persistent – recurrent – vicious problems of Indian farmers.

Farmers in many parts of India are largely dependent on timely rainfall for harvest and subsequent profits. Uncertainty surrounding this phenomenon has also haunted them since the beginning of civilisation. Over time however, this uncertainty had reduced significantly as farmers back in the day could almost accurately plant crops based on previous experience with weather conditions. This wisdom has been passed on from one generation of farmers to the other.

Gradual onset of global warming and climate changes, over the last century, has slowly-yet steadily put this wisdom out of use. As for rain-fed farmers’ preparing for agriculture, soil-water equation is fragile and any delay in rainfall could easily mar the harvest. Government needs to understand various factors that are putting these farmers at risk of their lives and living. Hope this revolution teaches a lesson to all.

(Any suggestions, comments or dispute with regards to this article send us on [email protected])

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Dr Vaidehi Taman
Dr Vaidehi an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with Honourary Doctorate in Journalism, Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. for 14 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazine Beyond The News (international). She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which caters to her freelance jobs.

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