Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Essay on Farmers’s Stir: More than a loan waiver

Essay on Farmers’s Stir: More than a loan waiver

Agriculture in India has been the biggest employer with about 50% of the population being directly or indirectly involved with it. Farmers form the backbone of Indian economy and their progress is considered vital in sustainable economic development of the country. 
Essay on Farmers’s Stir: More than a loan waiver
The emotional bonding with the land, numerous activities and festivals associated with seasons are the permanent feature of Indian hinterland for centuries. But with the advent of globalization and Indian markets undergoing a massive change, these connections are slowly breaking down. With profiteering and market competitions becoming the norm of every sector, the agriculture sector which is mired with numerous uncertainties is bearing the brunt. This has caused numerous socio-economic problems in recent times and if not addressed has the potential to disrupt the lives of people in years to come.

Current State of Farmers in India
Central government and state governments have collectively taken several efforts to improve the conditions of farmers. The highly subsidized rates of fertilizers, more cultivable land under irrigation, a pan-India market like National Agriculture Markets (NAM) to reduce the influence of middlemen and most importantly securing basic minimum prices for the yields through Minimum Support Prices (MSPs) are in place.

Despite all these efforts, the farmers have not been able to come out of debt traps which have led to their suicides becoming an epidemic in regions with water shortage. The droughts for two years in succession along with limited farm insurance penetration have created a situation where farmers have no one to turn to in case of distress.

Changing Dynamics of Villages
The caste and sub-castes play a major role in functioning of villages in which certain occupations are associated traditionally with certain castes. The landowners who were at the top of echelon are now facing threatened with the new power dynamics in villages. This is evident in the rise of caste related unrests like of Jats, Patels and Marathas. The demand for reservations stems out of many factors but agriculture becoming a non-viable option due to increasing uncertainties is one of the major factors.

Reasons for Farmers' Distress
The changing consumer behavior and rising living standards have made the life of farmers a tough one. Even the farmers prefer their children to migrate to cities in search of better opportunities in the fields of education and employment. The farming patterns before the British arrived was subsistence type of agriculture but they focused on plantation crops which fetched good value for money but did not address day the food security. This resulted in widespread famines starving millions to death.

After independence, steps were taken to increase the yield and riding on the irrigation facilities in Punjab and Haryana along with intervention of chemical fertilizers and high yielding variety seeds, Green Revolution was ushered in. But overexploitation of these farming lands over the years has reduced its output creating insecurity among farmers of these regions.

With cultivation of rice and wheat not giving great returns, the farmers have turned to horticulture for earning profits. But cold storage infrastructure along with processing industries are too sparse which add the burden of cost of production on the farmers and when the crops fail or they fail to get proper value for their produce, it becomes difficult for them to sustain the next cycle.

The problems of erratic environment conditions due to global warming have changed the rain patterns and season patterns. This has become a cause of concern for the farmers and policymakers alike. Wastage of crops due to untimely rain and hail has become a common feature and pest attacks have repeatedly destroyed the crops before ripening.

The problems for farmers have compounded due to depleting water table levels, fragmented land holding, deteriorating soil quality and lack of literacy among majority of farmers to make use of scientific technology. With these multiple problems posing huge hurdle in agriculture, farm loans have become a potent tool to avoid explosive situations

Loan Waivers: Not a long term solution
Farmer distress has been made an economic issue where there is a belief that a bumper crop can set the things right for farmers. Elections are fought on waiving these debts of farmers in agricultural sector. The subsidies on fertilizers, electricity, seeds have become a huge burden on public exchequer and can rightly be described as economists' nightmare.

More spending on agriculture means less spending on social sectors; more government borrowings crowd out the private borrowings and disrupt the flow of credit and investment in the economy. These measures can ensure short term peace but as the recent agitations show they cannot be a solution for the problems ailing agricultural sector. After waiving loans of farmers from Uttar Pradesh, there has been similar demand from other states, which if fulfilled will derail the economy and create economic crisis.

More than a Loan Waiver
The farmers repeated agitations in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh on account of crop failures is seen as cry of help to waive loans from the banks. But it is more than what meets the eye. It is a struggle to stay relevant in the age where the markets are flooded with goods from bigger organizations which have reduced the production costs. With WTO pushing India to make amendments to its existing farming structure of procurement of grains, in a highly globalized world the farmers in India are becoming more insecure by the day. They want the social security along with certain standard of life which sustains their aspirations. But the growing disparities in income have made it difficult to become a farmer in the country with their dignity and self-respect intact where debts have sucked the life out of them. These agitations want to create a sense of urgency among various stakeholders of society to come together and address the problem and strike at its roots rather than taking cosmetic measures.

Steps towards long term goals
Sustainable agriculture is the long term goal for farmers to produce crops without putting lot of stress on resources like water and soil. Scientific research in minimizing water wastage - Israeli technique of drip irrigation, using of bio pesticides and fertilizers to prevent soil degradation, giving more protection to farmers by covering wide range of ways which can destroy crops along with increasing private investment in farming can help reduce the farmer suicides and their agitations to be heard.

Therefore, being mindful of the fact that as our population grows, so does the need to feed them and farmers with their knowledge and skill need to be in best of spirits so that we harvest not only a bumper harvest but also a good life.

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