Compiled by Nandini Voice for The Deprived
For a country which has the capacity to produce three crops in a year, the ceaseless cases of farmer suicides are an ignominious fact. The statics of the deaths are so high that there is nothing personal or moving left in them. Death count of a disaster raises more sympathy than the suicides of the Indian farmers. It has become more of a factor to lash the ruling party by the opposition than a warning sign to actually do something.
However, not all are insensitive to the agrarian plight. Nandini Voice for The Deprived , a Chennai based NGO organised an All India Essay Competition for the citizens on “How to prevent farmers’ suicides in India?” to look critically into the issue.
Here are some reasons and a few solutions to the problem as suggested by the participants in the competition.
Problems of Indian agriculture-
1. Agriculture is unorganized activity today
Indian agriculture is largely an unorganized sector. No systematic institutional and organizational planning is involved in cultivation, irrigation, harvesting etc.
Institutional finances are not adequately available and minimum purchase price fixed by the government do not reach the poorest farmer.
2. Most farms are small and economically unfeasible
The ground reality is that majority of the farmers in India own as little as two acres of land. Cultivation on such small area is not economically feasible. Such small farmers have become vulnerable.
In many cases, the farmers are not even the owners of the land, which makes profitable cultivation impossible because significant portion of the earnings go towards the payment of lease for the land.
3. Middlemen and economic exploitation of farmers
Exploitation by the middlemen is the reason put forth for not getting the best price for the produce of the agriculturists.
The government should promote the plan called “ulavar santhai” (Farmers Market), where the farmers can directly sell their products at reasonable price to the consumers.
4. Government program do not reach small farmers
Government has implemented agricultural debt. waiver and debt. relief scheme in 2008 to benefit over 36 million farmers. Direct agricultural loan to stressed farmers under so called Kisan credit Card were also covered under this scheme.
However, most of the subsidies and welfare schemes announced by the Central and State governments do not reach the poor farmers. On the contrary, only big land lords are benefited by those schemes.
5. High indebtedness and exorbitant interest rates
The root cause of farmers taking their lives is the increase in their indebtedness and debt burden.
Exorbitant interest rates have to be declared illegal and the government has to take strict measures against greedy money lenders.
Easy access to institutional credits have to reach the small and marginal farmers, without cumbersome procedures.
6. Real estate mafia
We can see even fertile land best suited for agricultural purpose being sold to real estate people, who prepare plots and give attractive advertisements to sell at exorbitant price. There is need to implement strict measures to prevent land grabbing.
Solutions to the problem-
1. Multiple crops
Cultivation of multi crops such as coconut, turmeric, pine apple, banana, apple, papaya, ginger will yield profitable results to the farmers.
2. Special agricultural zone
Just like industrial zone, there is an urgent need to establish special agricultural zones, where only farming and agriculture related activity should be allowed.
3. Need to modernize agriculture
By introducing farm techniques which guarantee a definite success, an increase in youth participation on agricultural fields is economically possible. This can be attained only by implementing new technologies. Research efforts should continue for the production of crops with higher yield potential and better resistance to pests.
Technological advancement in agriculture should be passed down to the small farmers.
Where the existing crops would not do well under drought and weather conditions, the farmers should be helped to shift to cultivating crops that would be easy and economical to cultivate.
4. Educate the farmers
Many farmers in India are not aware of crop rotation. Though education in urban areas has improved a lot, the government has ignored the same in rural areas in general and in agriculture sector in particular. This is the reason why farmers are not adequately aware of the various schemes provided by the government.
5. Clubbing of small fields may help
Several farmers who own small piece of land can join together and combine all small fields into one large chunk. This may help in variety of ways.
6. Need for meaningful crop insurance policies
Crop insurance is must and the claim should be settled easily under the supervision of the district collectors.
Traditional crop insurance depends on the direct measurement of the damage suffered by a farmer to determine his/her payout. However, field loss assessment is often not feasible or expensive, since most of our farmers are small holders.
Index based insurance, on the other hand, responds to defined parameter.
Index based insurance has the advantages that it is transparent and all the insurers within the defined geographical area are treated equally. It has low operational and transnational costs, while also ensuring quick payouts.
7. .Need for better water management
Irrigation facilities that are currently available do not cover the entire cultivable land. Apart from the areas where perennial rivers flow, most of the agricultural fields do not have irrigation facility.
In most cases, it is not the lack of water but the lack of proper water management that causes water shortage. Improved modern methods of rain water harvesting should be developed.
Water management can be made more effective through interstate co-operation on water resources, where surplus water from perennial rivers can be diverted to the needy areas.
Connecting the rivers throughout the country will solve this problem. Construction of National Waterways will improve the irrigation facility, which in turn can save the farmers, if the monsoon would fail.
8. Alternate source of income for farmers
Small farmers should be encouraged to develop alternative sources of income and the government should take up the responsibility for providing training to the farmers to acquire new skills.
In drought affected areas, the government should start alternative employment generation programs to reduce the dependence on agriculture as the sole source of income. Such programs should be standardized.
Farmers should be enabled to divide their activities into three parts. One for regular crop production, one for animal husbandry or fisheries and another for timber production. These activities complement each other and also alternate sources of income of farmers can be ensured.
9. Need for national weather risk management system/disease alert system
Facilitating national weather risk management system that alerts farmers when there is a danger of extreme weather, would go a long way in reducing losses in agriculture.
Value added services like pest and disease alert applications, in combination with the weather forecast would equip the farmers to handle and manage their crops better.
For example, Water Watch Cooperative, a Netherlands based organization, has developed a disease alert system that sends an alarm to farmers, if probability of a pest/disease would be detected.
Similarly, system that detect the amount of water to be provided to a field based on the field water content, biomass and rainfall probability, would aid in optimization of water provision to the crop and ensure efficient crop management.