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3,00,000 farmer suicides: Making sense of the impersonal stats of a suicidal Indian farmer

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By Ishan Kukreti

The Indian farmer is in limelight again, and like always, for all the unhappy reasons.

A farmer died during the rally of Aam Aadmi Party at Jantar Mantar. The Land Acquisition Bill is being widely debated and Rahul Gandhi has lent his unequivocal support for the cause of the farmers. Recently, O.P. Dhankar, Haryana Agriculture Minister, called farmers who commit suicide, ‘criminals’ and ‘cowards.’ All this has focused the national attention on the tiller, once more.

But amidst the cacophony of prime time debates, angry questions, decreasing subsidies and unseasonal rains, the Indian farmer remains at the same place, on the margin and highly suicidal. 

What’s the big deal?

Since independence around 3,00,000 farmers have committed suicide. The highest number of farmer suicides were recorded in 2004, when 18,241 farmers committed suicide, according to National Crime Records Bureau. Division tells that this means, on ever day of 2004, around 50 farmers committed suicide in India. The jet black irony of the situation is that the year of BJP’s ‘India Shinning’ was the darkest for Indian farmers.

Agriculture as an economic activity is fast becoming an option not very viable. The input costs are rising at a rate which the output price is not able to match. Apart from this a long list of problems like decreasing water table, decline in soil fertility due to using fertilizers and chemicals, emergence of pests resistant to chemicals, are killing agriculture in India, along with the agriculturist.

Minimum Support Price Scheme

To secure the position of the farmers, the government started its Minimum Support Scheme in 1966-67. It is the minimum amount at which the government buys grains from the farmers. The scheme provides a guarantee of crop sale to farmers, but as the name suggests, it is a bare minimum amount and is mostly inadequate.

“Government gives Rs. 1,450 for a quintal of wheat, but it doesn’t help us. The MSP is worse than charity, it is given just as a formality. We require a minimum of at least Rs. 2,000 per quintal to make things better,”  says a highly disgruntled Karam Singh Pajja who is a farmer in Bajpur, Uttrakhand, and has ‘sold’ a crop of sugarcane worth Rs.82,000 to Bajpur Sugar Mill over a month ago but hasn’t received the money yet.

It is true that MSP has been increased by the government over the years. But the hike, when viewed keeping in mind the reduced financial assistance of government in activities like irrigation, health and related services, employment schemes etc, turns out to be a mere joke.

Moreover, even the guaranteed MSP comes with a there’s-a-rub condition. The government doesn’t purchase wheat crop ( one of the most grown crop) with moisture content over 12%. But during the time of harvest, the crop inevitably has moisture content higher than that. To bring it down to 12%, the yield has to be dried in the sun, this also means the requirement of a storage facility and a possibility of loss because of rodents and pests.

Arahati and the hoarding

When the farmer can’t sell the produce to FCI ( Food Corporation of India) due to the glitch of moisture content or if he requires a better price, he then turns to the ‘Arhati’ the middle man who buys the produce from him and sells it in the mandi to retailers.

“The farmer has to recover his money as soon as possible because he has to repay the loans. Arahati buys the produce for a lower price, exploiting the farmers and then makes profit by selling it at a higher rate to retailers and government officials,” says Baljit Singh Randhawa, treasurer of the Kisan Union, Uttrakhand.

For a person who thrives on the simple profit and loss principle of reducing cost price and increasing selling price, it is no surprise that the Arhati takes advantage of the farmers’ condition.

“It is his business and he does everything to make it profitable. What’s it to him if a farmer lives or dies? or whether our kids go to schools or not?” says Ramesh Khartri, who owns farms in Rajasthan.

Postscript    

The apathy of government, dishonesty of officials and the greed of Arhati, all are the combined burden which the sisyphus of an Indian farmer sloughs under, generation after generation.

Karam Singh’s words in this context, help put things in clear perspective. He says, “Kisan is the only person in Hindustan who is not allowed to fix the price for his goods. The government or the private trader does it for him. He cannot say that I want this much amount for my crop. He too has to send his kids to school, get his daughters married.”

 

  • A very succinct, point by point analysis of the farmers plight in india. Hope it reaches the powers that be. We need more journalists like you, who bring such pressing issues to the table.

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Widespread Agricultural Distress: Hyderabad Social Entrepreneur Uses Big Data To Change Farmers’ Lives

The app, which provides all farming-related information and communication in Telugu on a single platform, is significantly reducing the time and cost of cultivation for a farmer in real time.

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The startup, which can sustain for next six months on its own, is receiving proposals from different investment companies and Naveen says he will go with whoever is close to his idea. Pixabay

At a time of widespread agricultural distress caused by successive droughts, unremunerative farming and debt-trapped rural economies, a young man with his mobile app is showing how change can be brought in the life of farmers at the grassroot level.

In 2016, V. Naveen Kumar, who had no personal knowledge of agriculture, was so moved by the suicide of a farmer in a village in his native Warangal district of Telangana that for the next three months he ran around like a man possessed, meeting farmers to understand their problems. He interacted with agri-entrepreneurs and other stakeholders to find if there is a way he can bring some change in the lives of the financially besieged farmers.

Today, over 1.24 lakh farmers in Telugu-speaking states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh use his mobile app NaPanta to avail a host of services, all free of cost. And this MBA degree holder is satisfied that he is contributing his mite to bring some change in the way they practise agriculture.

NaPanta, which was started in June 2017, saw, surprisingly, thousands of farmers download the app. The launch of the pocket-friendly Reliance Jio and the boom in use of WhatsApp brought more people on the platform.

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While the information on app will clear regular doubts of farmers, for specific doubts a farmer can ask questions to a panel which includes agriculture scientist and experts.
Pixabay

The app, which provides all farming-related information and communication in Telugu on a single platform, is significantly reducing the time and cost of cultivation for a farmer in real time.

“I am confident that if farmers follow my platform, they will be able to save 20 per cent on expenditure and get 10 per cent extra yield. We can make 30 per cent difference,” V. Naveen Kumar, Founder and Managing Director, NaPanta, told IANS.

While the country has many apps to help farmers, there is no single app covering the entire gamut of agriculture activity ranging from selection of crops to locate the market offering highest price for their produce. From advisory services and weather information to market prices and e-commerce, the digital platform offers the comprehensive agri eco-system.

The app has tools like crop expenditure (which helps farmers track their expenses in an organized manner), crop protection, weekly agro advisory, agri forum, market price, agri e-commerce, crop insurance, weather, food processing technologies, and soil testing information.

A farmer can also buy or rent an agri-equipment as per the requirements of his crop cycle and can also sell his produce for the highest price without any middleman.

The app also allows farmers to access real-time and dynamic information pertaining to daily market prices of 300 agri-commodities across over 3,500 markets, along with three-year price trend.

Currently available in Telugu and English, NaPanta App provides complete pest and disease management details, covering 90 crops and with suggestions about 3,000 pesticide products.

Naveen Kumar, who earlier worked as a Credit Relationship Manager in ICICI Bank and later as Credit Risk Manager with HDFC Bank before co-founding apnaloanbazaar.com, a retail loan distribution services portal, says he is trying to build core competence among the farmers.

According to him, for all their requirements, small and marginal farmers depend on third parties like distributors of the companies.

“With no knowledge of agriculture practices and requirements of a particular farmer, they try to push their products for some extra profit and as a result the farmers either suffer crop losses or end up incurring huge expenditure.”

With agriculture extension officers of the government more focused on clerical related activities rather than extending actual help, he believes there is a huge gap between farmers and the government initiated activity.

“Farming is not depending on a single advisory. It is a combination of various services. We identified all that a farmer needs in day to day life and ensured that he has easy access to the advisory so that whenever he gets a doubt, he can get it cleared then and there,” he said.

Naveen said several states including Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu were showing interest in the platform. The app will be available in Hindi and Tamil in June-July this year. “If everything goes well in next 3 to 5 years, we will have our presence in 7-9 states,” said Naveen, who heads a five-member team.

While the information on app will clear regular doubts of farmers, for specific doubts a farmer can ask questions to a panel which includes agriculture scientist and experts.

NaPanta, an incubatee of International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) also gets the institute’s help in business activity, reaching the farmers and engagement with agri-input companies.

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“With no knowledge of agriculture practices and requirements of a particular farmer, they try to push their products for some extra profit and as a result the farmers either suffer crop losses or end up incurring huge expenditure.” Pixabay

The startup, which can sustain for next six months on its own, is receiving proposals from different investment companies and Naveen says he will go with whoever is close to his idea.

With huge amount of data being generated on the digital platform, Naveen embarked on building big-data architecture with crowd-sourcing information. It is building database with information on major crops in a particular area, major insects which affect a crop, cropping system, sequential cropping model, pesticides and where the farmers sell their produce.

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He is confident that this data will be a goldmine in the coming years.

“This kind of crowd-sourcing information is not available in the agriculture sector in India. We are getting information from actual farmers and not third parties.” (IANS)