“The future of India lies in its villages” said Mahatma Gandhi. And it’s not a hidden fact that most of the villagers are farmers. India’s 70 percent population still lives in villages and half of country’s workforce is engaged in agriculture. Gandhi ji also said “I for one am a farmer and I wish you all to become farmers, or to continue as such if you have already become farmers. My way of life has completely changed here. The whole day is spent in digging the land and other manual labour instead of in writing and explaining things to people. I prefer this work and consider this alone to be my duty.” It is highly doubtful it is relevant in the present scenario.
Indian agriculture and half of its population, who is engaged in it, continues to be in a distressful situation. And no one seems to be worried about it. That’s nothing less than painful and tragic. While the Indian Economy as a whole is on the path of resurgence and has performed significantly well in the time of global slowdown, agriculture sector has been the worst performing.
One thing should be clearly understood is that India’s goal of inclusive growth can only be achieved when the agriculture sector grows. It is evident from the fact that between 2004 and 2011, domestic agricultural prices rose in line with global prices, which encouraged the farmers to invest in agriculture. This, in turn, resulted in higher growth in agriculture, higher wages for farm labour, and the fastest decline in poverty since the initiation of reforms in 1991. The decline in poverty during this period was almost three times faster than during the 1993-2004 period. But the dream run seems to be over.Since 2012-13, agriculture is staggering, partly due to droughts and partly due to the collapse in commodity prices.
This makes two things pretty clear. One is that if we have to lessen the poverty, we have to invest in the agriculture and ensure the growth of the agriculture sector. Second is that we need wholehearted effort from the government to bring significant reforms to revive the Indian agriculture. Although the Narendra Modi Govt has announced some significant schemes such as Pramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayi Yojana, Soil Health card Scheme to improve the situation of Indian agriculture but the path to achieve the significant result is very long.
Poor monsoon seasons and back to back droughts in the previous two-three years have worsened the situation. Monsoon rains (June 1 to September 30) in 2014 were less by 12 per cent compared to the long period average. This year’s rain deficit is bigger at 14 per cent, and water storage in 91 reservoirs is also lower than last year. That led to a drought, and agri-GDP growth collapsed to 1.1 per cent, which is pretty lower than the target of 4 per cent. The average growth of agriculture during the first four years of the 12th Five Year Plan is going to be only around 1.5 per cent. That’s a massive failure in a sector that engages the largest number of people, especially those at the bottom of economic pyramid.
Farmers are losing patience with each passing day. Farmers from Maharashtra, the interiors of north Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradeshare in great distress and are taking the last possible option that remains with them to end their lives. Situation is not so different in Punjab where farmers are already up in arms, blocking trains because their cotton crop is heavily damaged and basmati prices have collapsed by more than 50 per cent. Can the Centre hear the rumblings? It is a wake-up call. Only the deaf can ignore it. In this gloomy scenario Gandhiji’s call to become the farmer seems to be irrelevant. When they are at the bottom in the economic pyramid and no one seems to listen to their miseries then
WHO WANTS TO BE A FARMER?