Indian Agrarian Crisis now moved to

Farmer-the most endangered species

Off with the farmers

Posted by Ramoo on January 31, 2007



Rural distress leading to farmer suicides, alongside breakdown of governance and failure of democracy, is the dark cloud to which a 9% economic growth rate hangs as a silver-lining. What can be done to banish this darkness?
The first step is to take a whole lot of farmers off the land, at least half of them. We just have too many farmers.
What right do sundry commentators have to ask farmers to get off the land? Well, farmers are the first ones to opt out.
For those who wish to understand rural distress, the National Book Trust has brought out a little green book, in which agricultural economist G S Bhalla summarises the finding of the National Sample Survey Organisation’s Situation Assessment Survey of Farmers.
The Survey found that 40% of the country’s farmers have no desire to persist with farming, but do so for want of an alternative. The book is essential reading for all politicians who wish to appreciate the reality behind emotive news reports about distress on the farm. However, the book does not go into what can be done to tackle that distress. Which brings us back to ridding farmland of an excess of farmers.
How many farmers do we have? The number that our trade negotiators cite to stave off opening up the farm sector is 650 million. This is a gross exaggeration, of course. The fact is that only around 58% of our total workforce is dependent on farming, either as cultivators or agricultural workers.
Another 3% live on fishing. In fact, 27% of rural workers are engaged in activities other than cultivation. What needs to be done is to enlarge this pool and shrink dependence on crop husbandry where under-employment is huge and productivity, low.
As per the latest estimates, less than 18% of GDP comes from agriculture and allied activities, which engage 61% of the workforce. Clearly, productivity per worker in the non-agricultural sectors is, on average, seven times as much as in agriculture. Shifting workers out of agriculture would vastly improve productivity, boost incomes and the rate of growth of the economy.
How do we go about shifting workers out of agriculture, that is, farmers off the farm? And how do we raise the incomes of those who remain in agriculture? Urbanisation, agro-processing, organised retail and organisation of farmers into Amul-like cooperatives and companies to give them institutional capability — that is the short answer.

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