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Gujarat's annual agri-festival krishi mahotsav helped big farmers more than small ones: Survey results

Counterview Desk
Two Gujarat based scholars, Amita Shah and Itishree Pattnaik, in a recent study, “High Growth Agriculture in Gujarat: An Enquiry into Inclusiveness and Sustainability”, have found that the Gujarat government’s high-profile annual event Krishi Mahotsav, meant to intensify agricultural growth, was high on propaganda, but low in providing help to the marginal sections farmers. Forming part of the new book, “Growth or Development: Which Way is Gujarat Going”, edited by Prof Indira Hirway and others, the study, based on survey of 876 households in 15 Gujarat districts, found that 16.6 per cent of the large farmers benefited from subsidies, as against 8.3 per cent medium farmers, 7.2 per cent small and medium farmers, and just 1.3 per cent of the landless.
Large farmers (24.7 per cent) were the main beneficiaries of the new seed variety, as against 14.8 per cent medium and 9.9 small and marginal farmers. Then, 9.2 per cent got the benefit of better agricultural techniques, as against 2.6 per cent medium farmers and 2.1 per cent small and marginal farmers. Further, while 8.3 per cent large farmers got the benefit of water harvesting, as against 1.3 per cent medium and 1.5 per cent small and marginal farmers. The survey was carried out in Gandhinagar, Mehsana, Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Panchmahals, Bharuch, Dangs, Valsad, Surat, Narmada, Navsari, Tapi, Amreli, Rajkot and Surendranagar districts.
The survey found a strange dichotomy: In the irrigated areas, 45.89 per cent of the farmers were found to be “aware” of the Krishi Mahotsav, as against just 14.15 per cent farmers in the non-irrigated or rain-fed areas where no irrigation facilities were available. Similarly, 32.82 per cent of the farmers in the irrigated areas said they “participated” in the Krishi Mahotsav, as against just 2.85 farmers in the non-irrigated areas. The scholars said, “The small farmers had a “relatively low level of attendance in gram sabha organized during the Krishi Mahotsav. The evidence suggests that interaction of the respondents with the state officials as well as scientists was far less than those having reported awareness about the programme.”
Quoting yet another survey which they had carried out in seven Gujarat districts -- Mehsana, Rajkot, Kutch, Patan, Panchmals, Valsad and Amreli – the scholars say, access to recharged bore wells next to watershed development projects, which the government had encouraged in late 1990s, were found to be “clearly tilted in favour of medium–large farmers”. They said, “About 75 and 28 per cent of the medium-large farmers reported access to wells and bore wells respectively as compared to 42 and 11 per cent among the marginal-small farmers.”
While conceding that “irrigated area among the sample farmers increased by 461 hectares during the study period”, there was “a massive expansion of wells (about 5,000) and bore/tube wells (about 2,620) since the beginning of 2000”. But this expansion of the irrigated area was “without corresponding improvement in water use efficiency”, the scholars say, adding, this led to “unsustainable use of groundwater, often through competing extraction of water by farmers in the study villages.” The scholars suggest, only water intensive crops gained.
According to the scholars, “Cotton was found to be the most important crop accounting for about 42–43 per cent of the total cropped area during the kharif season for all the seven districts taken together. Similarly, wheat occupied between 89 and 96 per cent of the rabi area. The proportion has changed only marginally over the project period. Both the leading crops are water intensive, and grown in areas that are otherwise drought and desert prone as confirmed by the very selection of the village/micro watersheds to be covered under the project intervention.”

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