If experts and policy makers are to be believed, the dip in agricultural growth from 18.8% in 2010-11 to -9% in 2011-12 — as reflected in the economic survey — could be symptomatic of an ongoing agrarian crisis in the state. Picture this. The production of cereals, pulses, oil seeds, cotton and almost all produce in the food basket dipped in 2011-12, the fall ranging from 6 to 24%. The state produced 96.62 lakh metric tonnes of cereals as against our requirement of 132.06 lakh metric tonnes.
Dr Ajay Dandekar, agrarian economist, Central University, Gandhinagar, said: “This kind of decline is not one-off. It is reflective of an ongoing agrarian crisis across the country. It will have its implications on food security in the future.”
Lack of support from the government and no ownership for agriculture has made farming increasingly unviable, he said. More than 6,000 cotton farmers in Vidarbha have committed suicides because of debts. The suicides continue unabated despite compensation packages to the tune of Rs8,000 crore in the last six years.
The high cost of production in comparison to the returns is the prime reason behind the phenomenon. “The contribution of agriculture to state income was 15-18% five years ago. Now, it is just 12-13%. It is a telling sign of decline. Increase in farmers’ income is important for the growth of agriculture sector,” said Wardha-based agrarian expert Vijay Janwadia.
Steps by the state government such as improving dry land irrigation, market intervention for sale of produce, better credit facilities, control over price fluctuations and more subsidies could help increase farmers’ income, feel experts.
Critics, however, feel that sincere efforts by the government are unlikely. “In the last one year, the state has failed to provide fertiliser subsidies on time.
They have promised compensation, but have not handed it out and have banned exports when prices were good in the global market. The regressive policies of the state and central governments are to be blamed for the decline,” said Raju Shetti, MP and farmers’ leader.