farm crisis

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 22 Nov 2017 11:45:14

VERY rarely have farmers’ organisations from all over the country come together and converged on the national capital to give vent to the crisis that the farm sector is facing since last few years. On Monday, under the banner of All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) thousands of farmers from all over the country assembled to highlight the crisis that the agriculture sector faces today. The AIKSCC, comprising 180 farmers’ organisations from all over the country, organised a “farmers’ liberation parliament” which passed two “Bills” for debt relief and remunerative prices. The “Bills” are to be presented in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha as private members’ bills. Farmers in different states have been so far agitating on local level highlighting their grievances but not with much success. Hence they seem to have decided to make it a national issue seeking Central Government’s intervention. 

While weather has been playing truant in the last few years, affecting production and productivity in the agriculture sector, the other worry is the constantly rising cost of production with input costs going out of the reach of the marginal and even middle level farmers. There is a complete mismatch in price realisation as the prices that are offered in the market place by traders hardly cover the input costs, making the mockery of all the months of toil and expenditure incurred by the farmers.

While the Government announces minimum support prices (MSP) for various crops in advance of crop seasons, the farmers invariably are at the mercy of manipulative tactics of unscrupulous wholesale traders in the mandis. Traders often offer lower prices than the MSP announced by the Government. This happens in the case of onion, cotton and pulses crops every year. Last year the farmers took a bumper crop of pulses in view of the high prices ruling then. But when the crop entered the market prices were pulled down even below the MSP. As a result the Government had to intervene and purchase millions of tonnes of Tuar Dal at MSP to help the farmers to recover their cost.

Thus the farmer is always at the mercy of either the rain gods or the market man. The element of uncertainty has become an integral part of Indian agriculture. Confronted with rapid climate changes the agriculture sector has become vulnerable to shocks. Hence it has become necessary to insulate farmers from these shocks and solutions to the challenges of the future have to be found at the national level. The Monday gathering in the national capital was ostensibly meant to draw the attention of the entire nation to the crisis that threatens to engulf a crucial sector of the national economy.

Agriculture has a critical role in the nation’s economic growth by way of food security, providing sustenance and employment to almost two-thirds of the population. The manufacturing sector too depends on agriculture sector for demand to pick up. Hence a good crop year is a bonanza for the manufacturing sector for demand to pick up for goods and services. If the Central Government’s stress is on promoting micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME), agriculture sector holds great potential as allied activities related to post-harvest operations can open up multifarious possibilities for promoting small businesses.

It is necessary to promote allied activities conducive to sustenance of farming and minimising the possibility of shock due to crop failure. Appropriate technologies need to be made available to the farmers to take up allied activities and steps should be taken to enhance skill development among rural youth. Agriculture is the backbone of rural economy and every effort needs to be made to pull it out of the current crisis.