State of Farmers
This is a guest blog by Bhamini.
Fifty per cent of India’s population is dependent on agriculture. Agriculture contributes to almost 15-17% of India’s GDP and it is the primary source of livelihood for 58% of our population. Farmers work day and night to feed the country. These very farmers have been living in crises for years and nothing substantial has been done to improve their condition.
Reasons for Farmers’ Suicides
1)Dependence on private moneylenders.
2) Small and commercially unviable land holdings.
3) Lack of access to formal credit.
4) Drought & unseasonal rains.
5) Increased input costs (seeds, diesel & fertilizers).
6)Demonetisation broke the back of the rural cash economy.
7) Government being non serious about MNREGA.
Why suicide is the only option left for them?
Financial stress and inability to pay the debt leads to this result. The farmers have to depend on private moneylenders & micro finance companies which charge very high rate of interest.
Reasons for them being unable to pay debt?
Stagnant income of farmers is the reason that number of suicides are increasing, as farmers feel they are trapped in a vicious circle of loans and lower prices for their produce.
National Crime Records Bureau statistics show more than 3 lakh farmers have killed themselves in the last two decades. Indebtedness being the main reason for more than 55% of farmers’ suicides in 2015. Maharashtra, which saw the highest number of farmers’ suicides, has 57% of its farm families in debt. NSSO data shows more than half of all farmers are in debt, with each household owing an average of ₹47,000.
Why are they dependant on private moneylenders?
They do not get formal credit for small size of land holding & poor quality of land.
Why are farmer suicides under -reported?
To escape giving them compensations for farm suicides by laying baseless reasons like alcoholism as reason of suicide.
In reality reasons stated above are the ones which force them to take such a step.
What is the government doing?
The government has introduced several schemes like PM-Kisan scheme under which Rs 6,000 every year per household was to be given to all farmers except sharecroppers and income tax payees in three instalments.
However, it doesn’t seem to have benefited the farmers, reason being:
- Many farmers submitted their application forms after the announcement of the scheme but due to limitations in the government machinery, not all of them were registered in the first period. They submitted their application just after the scheme announcement but they did not get the first instalment because of the slow registration process.
- According to The Hindu, there are 125 million farming households owning small and marginal holdings of land in the country, who constitute the scheme’s original intended beneficiaries. However, at present, the list of beneficiaries includes only 32% (40.27 million) of these households.
- Further, the scheme recognises only landowners as farmers. Tenants, who constitute 13.7% of farm households and incur the additional input cost of land rent, do not stand to gain anything if no part of the cultivated land is owned.
RESULT: Farmers want to give up farming
A survey states that majority of farmers want to give up farming. Many of these would prefer to be employed in cities because of better education, health and employment avenues there as they are unable to bear the repeated losses.
The solutions are easy to state but difficult to implement. Let us state some solutions which may never be implemented:
- Government needs to create more jobs by creating fast growth. India does not need more than 15% of the population to be engaged in agriculture. This gives us a figure of over 45 crores. If we add the rural unemployment to it (just 5%) then we get a figure of 49 crores. Thus, India needs about 50 crore more jobs to redeploy the population which is disguised or under-employed on farms.
- The Swaminathan Committee Report should be genuinely implemented.
- Parliament should debate the issue of farmers’ distress and then genuinely implement the policy decisions taken.
- Farmers should genuinely get crop insurance and not a scam like the PM Crop Insurance Scheme, designed to benefit the insurance companies and then maybe a portion of the money comes back to the BJP through electoral bonds.
Farmers should unite and form a party of their own. BJP or Congress will only offer loan waivers at the times of elections. Loan waivers do not solve the problems of farmers. Proper price for seeds, produce, easy credit and genuine insurance are essential to mitigate the problems. Unless farmers do this, Mallyas & Choksis will keep running away with crores and farmers will keep committing suicides for thousands.