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

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site satyagrahis.in. The satyagraha.in article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the satyagraha.in article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Maize, bajra, jute, banana cultivation banned off West Bengal border: Plea to NHRC

Counterview Desk  West Bengal-based human rights defender Kirity Roy, who is secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Manch, and is national convenor of the Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity, in a representation to the chairman, National Human Rights Commission, second within few days, has bought to light one more case of trespassing and destruction of a fertile banana plantation by BSF personnel along the Indo-Bangladesh border, stating, despite a written complaint to the police has taken "no initiative".

India second best place to invest, next to UAE, yet there is 'lacks support' for IT services

By Sreevas Sahasranamam, Aileen Ionescu-Somers*  The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the best place in the world to start a new business, according to the latest annual Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) survey. The Arab nation is number one for the third year in a row thanks to a big push by the government into cutting-edge technology in its efforts to diversify away from oil.

Living standards in 'model' Gujarat worse than major states: Govt of India document

By Rajiv Shah  Amidst raging controversy over whether the latest Government of India’s “Household Consumption Expenditure Survey 2022-23 Fact Sheet: August 2022-July 2023” suggests that India’s poverty levels are actually down to 4.5 to 5%  during the decade-long Narendra Modi rule, a state-wise breakup in the 27-page document shows that “model” Gujarat’s average consumption expenditure is far below most of the so-called developed states.

Not livable in summer, Chitrakut PM-Awas houses 'push' tribals in moneylender trap

By Bharat Dogra*  Those who are in-charge of implementing the PM-Awas scheme of rural housing can rightly take pride in what has been achieved in Dafai hamlet (Karvi block, Chitrakut district, Uttar Pradesh). All the Kol tribal families here are extremely poor and vulnerable. In a rare achievement, almost all of them have received housing assistance under PM Awas. 

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".

Mahanadi delta: Aggressive construction in flood plains, reduced fish stock, pollution

By Sudhansu R Das  Frequent natural calamities, unemployment, low farmers’ income, increase in crime rate and lack of quality human resources to strike a balance between growth and environment etc. continue to haunt the state. The state should delve into the root causes of poverty, unemployment and natural calamities.

Development? This tribal hamlet in Chitrakut has no toilets, no electricity connections yet

By Bharat Dogra*  As we moved away from the starting point of the Bundelkhand Expressway and a famous pilgrimage site into a side-road, the hills of Chitrakut here appeared to be more and more isolated. Another turn, and we appeared to have reached almost a dead-end. However it is here that over 80 households of the Kol tribal community have been living for a long time.

Narmada Valley's fossil evidence: Ground for 'nationalists' to argue primates' India roots?

By Saurav Sarkar*  In December 1982, a geologist digging in India’s Central Narmada Valley found something he did not expect. Arun Sonakia, who at the time worked for the Geological Survey of India, unearthed a hominid fossil skullcap from the Pleistocene era. The discovery sent shockwaves through the field of paleoanthropology and put South Asia on the map of human prehistory. Some experts concluded that the skull likely belonged to a member of a predecessor species of ours, Homo heidelbergensis , or perhaps was a hybrid of homo species, while Sonakia himself suggested “ an affinity… to Homo erectus .”