All the 1200 million people of India depend upon agricultural productivity. Without food, fodder, fibre and fuel we would be unable to sustain ourselves and it is the 400 million farmers, who help India to be self sufficient in agricultural productivity, free from famines, droughts and deaths due to hunger and starvation. If we take into account the ancillary to the farming sector into consideration; agriculture and fisheries constitute 800 million of our population. With ever growing Indian population, agriculture would remain our core economic sector although it contributes just 19% of our GDP (Gross Domestic Product).
From the uncertain fifties of the last century, when India depended on USA and other European countries for aid, to keep low the deaths due to starvation, as a result of failing monsoon and the resultant droughts, today as a country surplus in rice, wheat and pulses, the credit goes entirely to our farmers - 200 million of whom live below the poverty line and shockingly thousands of whom die of suicides, and health related issues, year after year.
The farmers in India are a marginalised and an exploited section of our society. The farm sector has remained ignored by the political class across various national as well as regional parties as their income has remained stagnant, whilst the cost of production has been rising steeply.
As a result, farmers have been unable to pay back the loans procured from banks, financial institutions and money lenders.
With the growing interest burden on loans, and the rising prices of inputs in the form of seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, labour, and transportation, farmers are unable to keep margins as the middle man in the trade from the farms to the consumers often profits the most. The trader often buys tomatoes from the farmer for Rs 3 per kilo and by the time the consumer receives it is Rs 40 at the retail shop.
Being perishable, most crops can’t be stored for a better price, thus distress sales are often the order of the day. So the farmer is a victim, during droughts and also a victim if production is high as the prices slump, when the production is high & there is a glut due to a bumper harvest.
Of late, due to the violent crying by the farmers in recent times, the Government of the day, be it the UPA of the past or BJP of the present has found loan waivers as a soft option to write-off loans from banks by farmers, as a quick knee jerk action, but, loan waivers is not a holistic or a healthy solution to the farmers woes. Neither is the farmer empowered into continuity of business as he would loose self confidence and moral authority. Loan waivers do not improve the quality of life of farmers, but prolongs his misery. Prevention is better than cure. The Government as a facilitator of agriculture should help farmers during the period of the production and ensure farmer’s empowerment through free education, providing quality seeds, fertilizers, offering support price to sustain his efforts and care for his family. It would be advisable for the Government to carry out health checks for the soils and crops as well as of the farmers and their family by and large. In Goa, however farming is not a risky business as farmers’ interests are adequately protected.
The farmers by and large prefer to go in and sow crops which yield higher profits and neglect low cash crops. Thus, all farmers grow one crop, predictably as the prices are high at that point of time of their taking the decision.
Sadly when every farmer goes for just cultivating one crop there is excess production beyond demand, leading to distress sales and lower income for farmers. The Government should advice farmers towards growing other crops and incentivise diversity in crop selection and cultivation by farmers, avoiding both gluts in production as well as scarcity in supply and low production of a crop desired.
As a nation we have afforded greater attention to the soldiers (jawans) and totally ignored the genuine problems of the farmers. Demonetisation and digital economy has hurt farmers the most, as without cash in hand, farmers could not buy inputs for agriculture and commissions by digital trading eat into their margins of profitability. We must understand that digital economy is 25 years too early for our farm sector. But it works fine for PayTM and the giants controlling the chains of super markets across the country and those controlling the digital economy.
We have allowed the prices of petrol and diesel to be ruled by the market forces. However, we control prices of farm products of the farmers, to appease the voters in the consumer market thus forcing the farmers to sell food grains lower than the cost of production, is it a reasonable way to sustain agriculture? Even our Food Corporation of Indian godowns are not scientifically oriented or maintained. Rodents are pests account for 30% food loss and wastages. Rains, pilferages and manipulations; account for loss of other 10%-15% of our production.
All these factors add on to make growing crop uneconomical and less remunerative. With growing population, the low levels of farm holdings, modest use of technology, poor yields, poor seeds, poor sanitation, uncertain irrigation practices add up to make life difficult for a farmer.
Today the common man of India pays less for his food, but does not mind spending a huge sum on casinos, entertainment and dances or recreational clubs, bars etc.
We must pay and sacrifice to make farmers happy in their production efforts and avoid the business of resorting to the sick loan waivers, which helps neither the producer, Government or the public at large.