Skip to main content

Doubling of incomes? Niti Aayog view 'hides' the plight of 86% small, marginal farmers

By Dr Gian Singh*

On March 28, 2021, Dr Ramesh Chand, Member (Agriculture) of the Niti Aayog, said that if the Agriculture Acts are not implemented soon, the target of doubling the income of farmers by 2022 would not be achieved. He said that the government was ready to discuss these laws with the farmers section by section. Farmer leaders should consider this offer.
He said that the solution to this problem could be found only by giving and receiving something and if the farmers persisted on their demands then it would be difficult to find a way forward. He also said that the government has made a good alternative for the farmers not to implement these laws for a year and a half.
The UPA government had constituted a committee headed by Dr Ramesh Chand in April 2013 to review the procedure adopted by the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices while making recommendations of Minimum Support Price (MSP) of different crops to the Central Government. 
The committee submitted its report to the Central Government on April 1, 2015.
The recommendations made by the committee headed by Dr Ramesh Chand regarding the MSP of agricultural commodities far exceeded the suggestion made by Dr MS Swaminathan to pay 50 per cent profit on the total cost of production (C2) due to which Dr Ramesh Chand's recommendations were considered pro-farmer at that time and were also appreciated by the farmers' organizations.
In addition to the other recommendations of this committee, it was recommended to pay 10 per cent extra on MSP in view of the risk involved in agricultural production and its management functions. The committee suggested that to consider the labour charges of the head of the household he/she should be considered as a skilled labourer. The committee also recommended that to pay the gap between MSP and market prices is the responsibility of the government. These recommendations were considered pro-farmers.
Apart from these recommendations, according to the committee, it is not possible for the farmers to meet their needs due to non-availability of remunerative prices, which leads them to commit suicide due to debt burden. In this regard, the committee had expressed the view that farmers need protection from market forces (looting).
Dr Ramesh Chand became a member (Agriculture) in the Niti Aayog set up after the Planning Commission was abolished by the NDA government and now he is advocating market forces to double the income of farmers.
The first question regarding doubling the income of farmers by 2022 is that on March 28, 2021 Dr Ramesh Chand is pushing for speedy implementation of the three Agricultural Laws enacted by the Union Government. Prime Minister Narendra Modi made this promise in a speech on February 28, 2016 in Bareilly. At the time of his promise, he had not laid down any condition for enactment of any new law relating to agriculture.
When inquired about the income figures of farmers in the Lok Sabha, it was found that the government does not have such figures. Based on the 2011-12 estimates of the National Sample Survey (NSS) to know the income of farmers for the year 2015-16, the annual income of an Indian farming family for 2015-16 was estimated at Rs 96,703 which works out to Rs 8,059 per month for a family of five and Rs 1,612 per capita per month or around Rs 54 per capita per day.
In order to double the income of farmers in the six years from 2016 to 2022, their income has to increase by 10.4 per cent per annum. 
Lack of access to accurate income figures for farmers is a major problem. The data from the NSS, one of the Union Government's own offices, was the subject of newspaper discussion on the declining income of farmers during 2018. The government later withheld the release of the figures.
Gross Value Added in the agricultural sector (Agriculture GVA) can be used to estimate the approximate growth of farmers' income in India. Since 2016, when the farmers' income has been promised to double in six years, there has been an increase of 24.5 per cent in the last five years, and according to Dr Ramesh Chand, this increase may be 3.5 per cent in the coming year.
As per the promise made by the Prime Minister to double the income of farmers by 2022, the six-year increase would be 100 per cent, compared to only 28 per cent achieved during the first five years. Farmers and other working classes in the country are struggling for the repeal of the three Agricultural Laws enacted by the Central Government.
How will private markets increase farmers' income by more than 75% when the aim is to increase profits of businessmen?
The serious consideration in this regard is that even if these laws are implemented immediately, in the remaining one out of six years, how will the private markets increase the income of farmers by more than 75 per cent when their aim is to increase the profits of the businessmen and not the benefit of the farmers?
In 2016, and even now, statements are being issued by the rulers to double the income of farmers. There are some very important questions in this regard. According to the government's own data, the per capita income of farming families during 2015-16 was Rs 54. If the Central Government keeps its promise, the per capita income will reach Rs 108 by 2022.
An income of Rs. 108 does not even cover the cost of three meals a day, while basic necessities of life include food, clothing, housing, education, health care, clean environment and social security. Per capita income represents the average income.
Often the average figures conceal more than what these reveal. All the farmers in the country do not belong to one category. Different categories of farmers include marginal, small, semi-medium, medium and large farmers. According to the Centre's own data, around 68 per cent of the farmers in the country have less than 2.5 acres of land and around 18 per cent have 2.5 acres to less than five acres of land.
These figures make it clear that around 86 per cent of the farmers in the country fall into the categories of marginal and small farmers and the remaining 14 per cent fall into the categories of semi-medium, medium, and large farmers. The category-wise break up of farmers makes it clear that the income of marginal and small farmers will not double even after doubling the income of farmers. In addition to these facts, there are considerable inter-regional variations in the income of the farmers.
About 50 per cent of the country's population depends on agriculture for livelihood. This population includes farmers, farm labourers and rural artisans. Different research studies conducted in different parts of the country have revealed the fact that the income of marginal, small, semi-medium and medium farmers, farm labourers, and rural artisans is so low that they have to bear the burden of debt.
What to think about repayment of debt, they are not even in a position to pay the interest on their debt as they have to take loan to keep the stove burning for merely two time meals.
The worst of the different farming sections are landless farm labourers and rural artisans as the increasing trend of mechanization and the use of herbicides in the agricultural sector are rapidly reducing their employment. Both these sections have no means of production other than selling their labour. These two sections are the two poles at the bottom of the agrarian economy ladder that are more prone to wear and tear, and more likely to be beaten.
In this regard, it is important to consider the fact that even in the promises made to the farmers to double their income, these two sections were completely neglected, while increasing their income should be the first priority.
The Covid-19 pandemic has reminded us that human beings can survive without cars, bunglows, airplanes, phones and the like, but bread is essential for their survival. The well-being of the farming community is essential for the survival of the human race. Overcoming economic, political, intellectual and other types of pollution is essential to make the lives of farmers, farm labourers, and rural artisans comfortable.
In order to overcome the growing economic and other inequalities in the country, the corporate economic development model must be replaced by a people and nature-friendly economic development model. To control political pollution, it is necessary for the people to unite and question the politicians and force them to fulfill their promises.
And, in order to control intellectual pollution, pro-people economists have to compile relevant statistics, conduct major studies and expose the so-called intellectuals who are fabricating data for conclusion-oriented studies to please the government and the corporate world in the hope of getting meaningless petty benefits.
---
*Former Professor, Department of Economics, Punjabi University, Patiala

Comments

Anonymous said…
the farmer protests reflect the sordid state of indian bureaucracy and those is government or private employment. falsehoods are considered normal. quoting data from near 10 years old reports is considered acceptable. having no soul or conscience is equally acceptaable. what is acceptable is whether current and future individual incomes are secure

TRENDING

Communal rhetoric? Hindutva preached by RSS-BJP is 'monolithic', not Hinduism

By Prem Verma*  I am a devout Hindu but not a believer of RSS Hindutva form of Hinduism which brings about hatred of other religions. My Hindu religion has not taught me to look down on other religions and neither has it instilled in me to go about converting others to my religion because my religion is superior.

India sees 62 journo deaths, 4th highest, amidst pandemic: Swiss media rights body

By Our Representative The Switzerland-based media rights body Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) has noted that India is the fourth most affected country as far as mediapersons’ death on account of Covid-19 is concerned. According to Blaise Lempen, secretary-general of PEC, the global tally of casualties among media persons in the Covid-19 pandemic has reached 1,036 journalists in 73 countries till date.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

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".

Gross 'injustice' to children: Rs 5000 cr cut in education budget; 15 lakh schools shut down

Counterview Desk  More than 100 dignitaries, including educationists, academia, social activists, teachers’ union, civil society organisations (CSOs), various networks and people working on child rights, in a letter to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman have sought reversal of reduction in allocation for education in the Union Budget 2021-22, even as demanding substantial increase in it.

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.

RSS love for 'killer' Myanmar junta behind Indian military presence at Tatmadaw Day?

By Shamsul Islam*  If a shameful act means an action which is criminal and nauseating, it would be an understatement to describe the attitude of the present RSS-BJP rulers of India towards the demolition of democracy and large-scale killing of the people of Myanmar by the military ( tatmadaw ) junta which took power through a coup on February 1, 2021 after renegading the election results in which the party of Aung San Suu Kyi, National League for Democracy, was a clear winner.

Chhattisgarh’s Apra riverfront imitates Sabarmati: 'Devaluing' water, environment

Sabarmati riverfront By Mansee Bal Bhargava*  This year’s #WorldWaterDay (March 22) focus was on ‘Valuing Water’. My school friend, Pragati Tiwari from Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh, called that day knowing my interest in water matters. We were remembering our childhood days as how we used to play on the banks and the bed of the Arpa Nadi (River) during the summer holidays and as how the river would swell like Anaconda to flow happily during the monsoon.

Bihar massacre on Holi day: Brahminical, casteist mindset behind 'uneasy' silence

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  Several people were killed in Bihar amidst Holi festivities, but not much response has come in from the media. The silence of the government and the society as a whole is also appalling. We seek to romanticise these festivals, yet we forget that every year they take so many lives. This despite the fact that Holi appears to be the best time for 'avenging things'.

India's draft migrants policy: Whither concern on job restrictions imposed by states?

By Anil Kumar*  India’s Niti Aayog has prepared a Draft Migration Policy. The draft policy acknowledges migration as an integral part of development, and it calls for positive government interventions that facilitate internal migration. With a rights-based solution to migration, the draft states that the policy should “enhance the agency and capability of the community and thereby remove aspects that come in the way of an individual’s own natural ability to thrive”.

Recalling Jallianwala martyrs' communal amity as BJP 'warns' of Sitalkuchi everywhere

By Shamsul Islam*  The RSS-BJP rulers declare India to be a battle-ground between Hinduism and Islam. Muslims have been declared as ‘internal threat’ by RSS ideologue MS Golwalkar (“Bunch of Thought”, Chapter xvi). Behaviour of many of their leading cadres, including those who hold high constitutional posts, is such that they seem to be conspiring over-time to ignite a civil war between the two communities. They are under the impression that this would help divert attention from failures of the Hindutva rulers on developmental front.