Skip to main content

Coping with Covid-19? Options before small, marginal farmers of rainfed regions

By Biswanath Sinha, Kuntal Mukherjee*
The global crisis due to Covid-19 has hit after reaching in western Europe. India’s response to curtail the spread of the disease was quite decisive. It announced a Janata curfew on the March 22, followed by a complete national lockdown from the midnight of March 24.
This however exposed the fault line in our system: thousands of migrant workers got stuck in various places, especially in metro cities as they could not get enough time to plan to return. Providing them basic support like ration and shelter then became a herculean task for the establishment.
The workers are expressing their desire to return to their native places, highlighted by various instances of large number of migrant workers conversing in different locations in Delhi, Mumbai, Surat and other cities in the recent past. Along with the disease itself, the migrant workers’ plight remains a national concern.
A recent submission made by the Union government to the Supreme Court of India reveals that there are about 41.40 million migrant workers in the country during the lockdown and more than 2.5 million are living in relief camps and shelters. In terms sheer number, the size of the migrant workers is equivalent to the population of Spain, one of the worst affected countries under Covid-19.
A close look at the source of these migrant workers suggests that majority of them go in search of jobs from regions where agriculture is mainly practiced under rainfed condition (a district having less than 40 percent of its total cropped area under irrigation is defined as rainfed district).
These pockets, incidentally are also the poverty zones of India inhabited by huge number of farming communities who own very small landholding, generally scattered in different patches. We try to analyse what options the small and marginal farmers and policy makers hold in the immediate and short term future. 
Click here and here for source

Rainfed, small holding, migration nexus

About 56 percent of India’s workforce works in agriculture and allied activities even though its contribution to India’s gross domestic product (GDP) is only about 13 percent. Further, in rural India 70 percent of the population is dependent on agriculture and allied activities as main source of income.
Analysis of the farmer’s landholding patterns suggest that small and marginal farmers constitute 85 percent of farming community (owning less than 2 hectares of land) but own only 44.58 percent of the farm operated area.
The rained region of India typically faces the challenges of imperfect markets for inputs which results in product leading to smaller value on return to farming; absence of easy access to credit leading to suboptimal investment decisions and input applications; poor human resource base; limited access to suitable extension services restricting suitable technological know-how; poor access to ‘public goods’ such as public irrigation, command area development, electricity grids; etc. All these factors contribute towards large number of people from the region migrating to cities for alternative income.

More person power available but more people to feed

Assuming that about 75 percent of the 41 million migrant workers stuck in different places will return to about 300 rainfed districts, in an average each district will witness approximately 100,000 people returning before the kharif season. This will mean the households will have more helping hands in agricultural fields (not necessarily skilled one) but more people to feed.

Back to the basic: Ensure household level food and nutritional security first

With some sort local level lockdown continuing and many people not ready to move out yet for job outside again, an average farming family needs to revise its strategy around food security. With local markets and nearby agriculture produce market (APM) still unsettled, it will be advisable that the small and marginal farmers opt for crops which will ensure food and nutrition security during this kharif. A possible package of practice could be: 
Seeds and manures can be given to all small and marginal framers as one-time grant or seed capital, especially for food crops and directly consumable cash crops.

Diversify the livelihoods basket

Typically, a farming household’s livelihoods depend on agriculture and allied activities, supplemented by some non-farm interventions. The farmers should try to diversify the livelihoods basket by engaging in income generating activities around non timber forest produce (NTFP), especially in tribal areas. Some state governments like Maharashtra have already brought NTFPs under essential commodity list.
The local self-help groups (SHGs) may collect NTFPs like mahua and tendu leaves and these can be connected with Central Government’s Van Dhan Scheme for forward market linkages. The people who return with some cash but lack in farming skill can go for rearing livestock and fisheries.

Big push for MGNREGS

Many migrant workers will return to villages and may not have skills in farming. They need to be engaged meaningfully to create local level assets around natural resources. To mitigate the lack of cash for existing farmers as well as the returnees, a bigger push to Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) will be very helpful.
The Central Government has increased the wage rate recently under MGNREGA, but more number of people needs to be brought under this. It’s high time to increase the man days from 100 to ensure sustained income in the rural areas.

Working Capital/Vulnerability Reduction Fund/ Community Investment Support Fund (CIF)

It is imperative that during this kharif season the farmers will need working capital. For this, credit has to be arranged in manner wherein the farmers will have confidence for going for crop planning. Currently there is provision of parking funds at the community institution level under National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM). This provision can further be enhanced and expanded to all the villages through appropriate local mechanism so that the community collectively can cope with any emergent situation.

Skills enhancement

This pandemic has undoubtedly demonstrated the value of technology in an unprecedented manner. This happened in villagers getting messages on Covid-19 from various agencies and other measures. In a few rare cases the migrant workers even tagged their local political representatives about their plights and locations.
It’s important that farmers now master the digital world for good and soon. It will do a world of good if the farmers and potential migrants learn how to access services and information; how to use internet banking etc. through digital technology along with enhancing professional knowhow on their skill verticals like plumbing, construction, carpentry, etc.

Local institutions coming together

In rural areas the farming community is intertwined with various institutions. There are Gram Panchayat (equivalent body in scheduled areas), primary agricultural credit society (PACS), self-help groups (SHGs), SHG federations, farmers’ producer company (FPO), farmers’ club, and the district administration. This crisis gives ample opportunity for all these institutions coming together and formulating a revival plan for each district starting from village level.

Conclusion

During the last decade there have been ambitious policy declarations in regards to Indian agriculture, especially aiming towards rainfed regions. Two such big ticket ideas are Bringing Second Green Revolution in the largely unrealized rainfed region and the other is Doubling Farmers’ Income. With basic institutional structure (market, credit, insurance, research, extension service, etc.) not in place, all these announcements unfortunately remain unrealized, nicely placed only as policy document.
When all over the globe we are now talking about restarting life in view of Covid-19 pandemic, it’s high time we pause and rethink realistically about how to revitalize agriculture sustainably in this hinterland of India. Because it’s most apt now to say "Everything else can wait, but not agriculture".
---
*Biswanath Sinha is with Tata Trusts, Mumbai. Kuntal Mukherjee is with Professional Assistance for Development Action (PRADAN), Raipur. Views expressed here are personal

Comments

Prabhat said…
The concerns raised for the so called migrant labour in my view are both seasonal and some are beyond to seasonality.The migrant labour had been a issue since long with district administration mostly from rainfed or typically tribal dominated districts but in the present context the reversal to native villages will change completely the socio-economic dynamics and even beyond.The pressure on land will increase both on ownership and right to cultivation.Rightly said the cropping intensity may so a drastic jump if the policy documents will be implemented properly.The fragmentedp landholdings may hardly will satisfy the subsistence part.The creation of alternate livelihoods and strengthen supply chain must be on top so that liquidity flow is not constrained.In my view the resources available (may be skilled or unskilled ) should be utilised to the full extent to create a vibrant rural economy as this Kharif season Indian villages will witness the sudden surge in labour availability. Undoubtedly the cropping intensity will increase as more labourers will take fallow land on lease to sustain their livelihoods
Elena wesley said…
Thanks for sharing this Information. Its quite different from other posts. If u looking for more updates about coronavirus, visit
Global Status of COVID-19
Amanda favour said…
Am here to appreciate Dr ihibor for using his herbal medicine to cure my Herpes virus. since 3 years now I have been living with this virus and it has been giving me challenges, I was so perplexed cause i have been taking several drugs to be cured but all of my effort was in vain, one morning i was browsing through the internet then i saw several testimonies about Dr. ihibor curing people from Herpes virus and immediately i contacted Dr. ihibor on his email: drihiborherbalhome@gmail.com, i told him about my troubles and he told me that i must be cured, he gave me some instructions and which i rightly followed. so he prepared a herbal medicine for me and sent it to me which i used for 2 weeks and everything was like a dream to me and my Herpes virus was totally gone, why don’t you contact him today and be free from your diseases because he is very good and honest Doctor. contact him via email; drihiborherbalhome@gmail.com / his mobile whatsapp +2349050141449....One thing i love most about Dr. ihibor is honestly and he is very polite with his patience, so everything he told me was what he did, and his herbal medicine are very affordable to get, Dr ihibor god will over bless you.

TRENDING

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Examples of support to Hindu temples, scriptures, saints by 'Muslim' rulers galore

Siya Ram coin issued by Akbar By Bharat Dogra* At a time when the country as well as the world are passing through very difficult times leading to more urgent need for strengthening national unity for meeting several big challenges ahead, unfortunately disputes relating to religious places have been allowed to raise their ugly head once again. It is well-realized by now by many people that it is not historical facts but narrow considerations of political gain and spreading of fanatic ideas of intolerance which are behind such mischief, but due to the increasing threat of mob violence and patronage available at higher levels to groups spreading intolerance many people are reluctant to openly and fearlessly express their views. Hence there is urgent need for broad-based peace committees with wider social support to spread the message of communal harmony and to appeal against the dangers of spreading false messages regarding places of worship which can ultimate

Gyanvapi case: Use of 'illegal' lawfare to keep the communal pot simmering

By Venkatesh Narayanan, Bobby Ramakant, Manoj Sarang* With a steady drumbeat of bad news for the lives of ordinary citizens --  inflation at a multi-year high , rupee at an all-time low , negative job creation and when all forward indicators as seen by industry leaders point to recessionary clouds on the horizon , what’s a serially-incompetent government to do?  Dust out their time-tested-citizen-distraction playbook. The Gyanvapi-Masjid case is all of this -- as a weapon of mass distraction. This zeitgeist of our times is best captured by a recent opinion piece : "The idea is to keep the pot on a perpetual boil, simmering at the top, whirling feverishly beneath. A restless society forever living precariously on the precipice arouses distrst, uneasiness, fear and discomfort, That is a toxic panoply for manufacturing rage, which can then be effortlessly mobilized at short notice. BJP is creating an eco-system of real-time instant delivery of hate-mongers. That is how we are sudde

Targeting mosques, churches: 'Roadmap' for 2025, RSS' centenary year?

416 years old Our Lady of Health Church, Sancoale, Goa  By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*  Fascists use manipulative strategies aimed at whipping up sympathy and support from the majority community, to which they normally ‘belong’. They do so in a variety of insidious and subtle ways. In the past few months, they have gone overboard in their efforts to denigrate and demonize minorities in India, particularly Muslims and Christians. They have spewed hate and divisiveness through their venomous speeches; incited people to violence and have effectively used officialdom to further their vested interests. The results are there for all to see: greater polarisation of the majority community in a country which prided itself for its pluralism and diversity. Their meticulously planned agenda is in order to gain absolute power of the country in the 2024 national elections. More so it is also a roadmap towards 2025 when the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) will complete one hundred years of its existence.

This varsity succumbed to extra-academic mobocracy, 'ignored' Hindutva archives

By Shamsul Islam* Open letter to Sharda University vice-chancellor Sub: Discarding a Question on Linkages of Hindutva with Nazism/Fascism is blatant Academic Dishonesty! Dear Professor Sibaram Khara Saheb, Namaskaar! According to your esteemed University’s portal: “The name of University, 'Sharda' is synonymous to 'Goddess of knowledge and learning-Saraswati'. She is identified with 'veena', an Indian musical instrument and the ‘lotus’, where she resides. The lotus in our logo symbolizes the seat of learning that the University is created for.  "Variety of colours signify the variety of disciplines the university offers and the overlap between petals creating new colours demonstrate the ethos of collaboration between students and teachers of different programme, nationality, creed and colour working towards creating new knowledge…the University's cherished mission to provide education beyond boundaries and to facilitate the students and faculty to achie

Whither climate goal? Increasing reliance on coal 'likely to worsen' India's power crisis

By Shankar Sharma*  Recent news articles, How to shock-proof India’s power sector and Power minister points finger at states for worsening electricity crisis , have highlighted a few current problems for the ongoing power sector issues as in April 2022. However, there is a lot more to it than a few temporary solutions as indicated in the articles. It should also be emphasised that it is techno-economically impossible to completely shock-proof a highly complex and geographically wide-spread vast power network, such as the one in India, which is only getting more and more complex with the passage of each year due to some irrational policies/ practices in the sector. A business-as-usual (BAU) scenario, wherein more and more of conventional technology power plants, including coal power plants, will be added in the near future, will also necessitate the increased complexity in the integrated national grid, and as a result the instances of power shortage/ disruptions can only escalate for

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

A former Modi ally, Prashant Kishor wanted to enter Congress 'on contract, as trader'

By Anand Sahay*  The Congress Party and the election campaigns specialist Prashant Kishor, whose company has done strategic communications for a host of political parties across ideology, should both count themselves lucky that they could not reach an agreement for Kishor to join the party. News reports suggest that the Congress rejected Kishor’s terms. This is not wholly unexpected. People join a party because they are attracted to it, and wish to serve it in any capacity that the party may see fit. But that isn’t Kishor at all. He gave the impression of entering into a contract, as a trader might. If news reports are to be believed, he sought freedom to report directly to party chief Sonia Gandhi, and sought untrammeled control over party communications. When such ideas did not find favour, the consultant withdrew. It is clear he has no particular love for the Congress, and its ideas, ideology and politics. In contrast, look at the key personae in G-23. They

Govt of India 'compromising' on mandate to regulate gene technologies, protect nature

Counterview Desk  In a letter sent to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and other related ministries and departments, the Coalition for a GM-Free India has raised "serious concern" over the guidelines notified for Genome Edited Organisms, in which major exemptions from regulations have been offered to certain categories of Genome Edited Organisms/Plants and products. A letter signed by Sridhar Radhakrishnan and Kapil Shah, co-convenors of the NGO network, addressed to Union Minister for Environment, Forest & Climate Change Bhupender Yadav, said, the Office Memorandum, dated May 17, 2022 of the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science & Technology about Safety Assessment Guidelines, which follows the Office Memorandum dated March 30, 2022 of the MoEFCC, said, the move "essentially amounts to entry of risky GMOs through the backdoor. Text : Coalition for a  GM-Free India is a national volunteer-driven platform of hundre

A Marxian trend that queries undemocratic customs and traditions of capitalism

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  A very well-meaning comrade called me a pluriversal Marxist with a wild smile full of English irony, while chairing my book release function in the Marx Memorial Library, London. I dedicate this piece to her… There is no other philosopher who is more abused and misunderstood like Marx. There is no other philosophy like Marxism which is more demonised on a regular basis. The mindless vilification campaign against Marx and Marxism continues without any form of reason. The propaganda and portrayal of Marxism as a devilish doctrine signify its importance as a philosophy of human emancipation from the very forces who demonise it. Marxism is a philosophy of praxis which helps us to understand the centrality of creative power of labour in producing socially meaningful value. It helps us to analyse the laws governing production, distribution, consumption, exchange, market, profit, pricing and private property in the development of class-based society. As a humanist p