Mahaboobnagar reeling under drought

150811 Mahaboobnagar rainfall

The crisis is further aggravated by the changed cropping patterns. today Mahaboobnagar has 30% area under cotton, about 30% area under orchard crops and 15% each under paddy and hybrid maize which are water guzzling.

The district which receives on average 500 mm rainfall is increasingly seeing deficit in no. of rainy days. for example in July, Amangal dist received 25% of the monthly average rainfall only in a day and rest of the days were dry.

Government should immediately focus on

  • protecting any crop which is surviving. this needs plans for protective irrigation. any tubewells in the village should be blocked for use to grow water intensive crops like paddy and be shared with other farmers to protect the crop by paying suitable compensation
  • planning short term pulse crop like greengram or horsegram in areas where sowing have not happend or where crop has already failed.
  •  completely stopping paddy cultivation in rabi season
  • discouraging organge plantations
  • provide relief in terms fodder and water to support livestock

and as a long term measure plan for

  • shift from cotton, maize and paddy to millets, pulses and oilseeds
  • insitu water harvesting at the farm level

Does it pay to be a farmer in India?

RUKMINI S

http://www.thehindu.com/data/does-it-pay-to-be-a-farmer-in-india/article6713980.ece?homepage=true
The average farm household makes Rs 6,426 per month.
PTI

The average farm household makes Rs 6,426 per month.

What the data shows on farm incomes, and whether farmers can make ends meet

How profitable is farming? The answer to this most fundamental question about Indian agriculture can be found in the National Sample Survey Office’s new surveyof India’s agricultural households.

The average farm household makes Rs 6,426 per month. Where does this money come from? Farm households do a mix of jobs, the data shows.

How much exactly does growing a crop earn a household? The chart below shows the value of the harvested crop for a household that predominantly grows that crop, over a six-month agricultural season. Sugarcane is by far the most profitable crop to grow, while paddy (or wheat in the first half of the year) brings a household around Rs 30,000 for a six month season.

Who are most farmers selling their crops to? First of all, over half of wheat and rice grown is not sold at all, and is purely for the farm household’s consumption. Of what is sold, the vast majority is sold to the private trader, and not the state-run mandi or procurement agency. Among those who sell to the procurement agency, a minority report having got the Minimum Support Price for their produce.

Farmers often talk about the high – and rising – costs of inputs, including water, seeds and pesticides. So how does the output they earn compare with the inputs they put into the land?

Input costs work out to nearly 30 per cent of the total output an average farm household gets from a crop.

Among inputs, fertilizers are the most expensive, followed by labour.

Does this income get the family through the month? For this, I compared income and consumption expenditure for farm households by the size of their landholdings.

As you can see, a farm household needs to have at least 1 hectare of land to make ends meet every month. But given that over 65 per cent of households have less than one hectare of land, this means that two out of three farm households are simply not able to make ends meet.

Unsurprisingly, what this translates into is debt. Over half of all agricultural households are indebted, and these are not small debts; the average loan amount outstanding for a farm household in India today is Rs. 47,000. For marginal farmers, making under Rs 4,000 per month, which doesn’t even cover their consumption, loans of over Rs 30,000 must be extremely heavy burdens.

The southern states stand out for their level of indebtedness.

Who are farmers borrowing from? Marginal farmers rely chiefly on moneylenders, while those with bigger landholdings go to banks, the data shows.

Delhi’s organic farming shocker: Data a load of manure

Mail Today Bureau   |   Mail Today  |   New Delhi, March 26, 2015 | UPDATED 06:03 IST

According to the state department, there is hardly any activity of organic farming on Delhi’s land . It claims it gets no subsidy for for organic farmers.Believe it or not, almost 70 per cent of the national Capital was used for organic farming in 2011-2012, according to National Project on Organic Farming (NPOF), which comes under the Ministry of Agriculture. While the total geographical area of Delhi is 1.48 lakh hectares, NPOF data shows 100238.74 hectares (almost twice the size of Mumbai) was used for organic farming during that period.

What smacks of data fudging and a gigantic scam took place between 2009 and 2012 when the Sheila Dikshit government was in power in Delhi and Congress-led UPA ruled at the Centre. As per the central government scheme, a subsidy of Rs.10,000 per hectare of land is given to a farmer for organic farming. Hence, Rs.100-crore plus subsidies in 2011-12 were given by the Union government for organic farming in the national Capital for 100238.74 hectares. And Delhi, on paper, produced 4,765 tonnes of organic products in 2009. The state of Assam produced 2,329 tonnes. In other words, urban Delhi’s output of organic products was 100 per cent higher than that of Assam. The scam was exposed by the Crop Care Foundation of India (CCFI) through an RTI.

When MAIL TODAY asked the Ministry of Agriculture if indeed such gigantic tract of land inside Delhi has been used for organic farming or if the national capital is such a big producer of organic vegetables, we got no answers. Neither did the Commerce Ministry which is in charge of export of organic products come up with any answers. Both ministries passed the buck and pointed fingers at each other.

The Delhi Agriculture department says there is hardly any organic farming done in Delhi. “There is no awareness about organic farming in Delhi. We don’t get any specific data on such farming from the government. Neither do we get any subsidy,” an official from the department told MAIL TODAY. Delhi agriculture department records show 30,922 hectares of land were used for overall agricultural activities in Delhi in 2011-12. Agriculture activity in Delhi takes place only on six blocks, out of which there is negligible farming in 50 per cent of the area. NPOF was introduced by the Congress-led UPA government during the 10th five-year plan as a central sector scheme with effect from 10 October, 2004, with an initial outlay of `57 crore for promotion of organic farming in India. Though introduced by the UPA government, the scheme continues till date with substantially enhanced budget.

Dr Krishan Chandra, Regional Director, National Center for Organic Farming (NCOF), Ministry of Agriculture, said: “Agriculture is a state subject. The Centre’s role is to help states monetarily so that they can take up organic farming. We have different schemes through which we help farmers by providing money to states. But there is no scope of organic farming in Delhi as there is meagre land available for any kind of farming. As far as subsidy is concerned, we give subsidy for the export of organic produce.” According to the data available with the Ministry of Agriculture, the annual export value of Agriorganic products for 2012-13 was Rs.1155.81 crore.

Dr Chandra said that on noticing major glitch in the data provided by the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), under the Ministry of Commerce, regarding organic farming in Delhi, he asked them for clarification.

“The data regarding land for organic farming is maintained by APEDA and not by our department. They said that earlier they used to enter the data manually but now they are doing it using computers. There may be some data manipulation as it is not possible to carry out such large-scale organic farming in Delhi,” said Chandra. “At times the state helps the farmer financially to carry out organic farming. Farmers furnish address details of the national capital, but the land is somewhere else. The responsibility to check such details furnished by farmers lies with the Commerce Ministry,” he said. Sources in the Agriculture Ministry said that there is a possibility of embezzlement of funds at the state level because who the beneficiaries would be are decided by the state.

The state agriculture department claims to have no information on organic farming in Delhi. “We don’t have any information,” said Kaushal Kishore, joint director, agriculture, Development department, Delhi government. Rajinder Chaudhry, Director (Media), Ministry of Commerce, said: “We are not aware about the disparity in data from other sources. The data provided by APEDA is sourced from TRACENET – a web-based traceability system operational under NPOP.”

World Water Day: the cost of cotton in water-challenged India

http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2015/mar/20/cost-cotton-water-challenged-india-world-water-day

Severe water scarcity in India is exacerbated by the cotton industry. Concerns are high, but are businesses, consumers and government doing enough?

Women and children gather water from pumps in India
More than 100 million people in India do not have access to safe water. Photograph: Jack Laurenson /Alamy

The water consumed to grow India’s cotton exports in 2013 would be enough to supply 85% of the country’s 1.24 billion people with 100 litres of water every day for a year. Meanwhile, more than 100 million people in India do not have access to safe water.

Virtual water

Cotton is by no means India’s largest export commodity – petroleum products followed by gems and jewellery follow closely behind. All of these exports require water to produce, and the quantities needed are staggering. Not only does it take water to grow anything, it also takes water to make anything: cars, furniture, books, electronics, buildings, jewellery, toys and even electricity. This water that goes largely unseen is called virtual water.

By exporting more than 7.5m bales of cotton in 2013, India also exported about 38bn cubic metres of virtual water. Those 38bn cubic metres consumed in production of all that cotton weren’t used for anything else. Yet, this amount of water would more than meet the daily needs of 85% of India’s vast population for a year.

Doing things differently

Cotton doesn’t usually consume this much water. The global average water footprint for 1kg of cotton is 10,000 litres. Even with irrigation, US cotton uses just 8,000 litres per kg. The far higher water footprint for India’s cotton is due to inefficient water use and high rates of water pollution — about 50% of all pesticides used (pdf) in the country are in cotton production.

Most of India’s cotton is grown in drier regions and the government subsidises the costs of farmers’ electric pumps, placing no limits on the volumes of groundwater extracted at little or no cost. This has created a widespread pattern of unsustainable water use and strained electrical grids.

“India’s water problems are well-known in the country and pollution is everywhere. Disagreement lies in the solutions,” says Arjen Hoekstra, professor in water management at the University of Twente in the Netherlands.

The new Indian government’s solution to the spectre of growing severe water scarcity is the $168bn (£113bn) National River Linking Project, which will link 30 rivers with 15,000km of canals. This will transfer 137bn cubic metres of water annually from wetter regions to drier ones. However, the country exports far more water than that, in the form of virtual water, in cotton, sugar, cereals, motor vehicles and its many other exports.

Faltering forward

All of these exports could be produced using far less water, says Hoekstra, who pioneered the water footprint concept. “It’s not just improving water efficiency that could dramatically reduce India’s water consumption, it’s growing and producing things in the right place,” he said.

Most of India’s water-rich crops such as cereals and cotton are grown in the dry states of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, which have very high evaporation rates, unlike wet states such as Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa. This perverse situation greatly exacerbates India’s water problems and is largely the result of government policies, Hoekstra’s 2009 study (pdf) states.

“There’s a lot of concern about water scarcity, but little interest in changing consumption patterns,” Hoekstra said.

Rather than matching production of goods to the sustainable use of existing water resources, India, like governments around the world, hopes to use engineering to increase the amount of water, said Hoekstra. Instead, India could grow cotton in less arid regions with more efficient irrigation and fewer pesticides to greatly reduce the crop’s impact on water resources.

  • World Water Day on Sunday 22 March 2015 coincides this year with the final year of the International Decade for Action “Water for Life” 2005-2015. The main official UN event is being celebrated in New Delhi, India.

Combine Harvester vs Manual Harvesting in Paddy

https://www.facebook.com/nandish.churchigundi
Combine Harvester
Is a machine that harvests grains crops, combining three separate operations like reaping, threshing & winnowing into a single process. The straw left behind on the field can be used as a mulch or bailed for feed and bedding for live stock.

Tractor mounted on the top of the machine having a wide cutter bar moving on tractor tyres are called as wheel type / tractor driven / tractor mounted combine harvesters. Standard weight of the machine will be 3,850 kgs + tractor engine weight 3,000 kgs + grain weight 700 kgs, total weight around 8,000 kgs ( 8 tons ). It is much more than a weight of huge African elephant. It can be operated only on dry fields, can harvest one acre of paddy field in 30-90 mins, charges are 1,400 rupees per hour and the machine cost around 16 lakhs. All its weight falls on its 16 inches tyres, soil gets compacted and hardened like our tar roads when we moved on our fields. It is so close to road rollers moving while making the roads.

Track type combine harvesters have a inbuilt engine, uniform weight distribution of 3,500 kgs to 5,500 kgs (depending on the companies) on 6 feet length x 1 1/2 width rubber tracks made easy to move even on wet paddy fields. They take 40-180 mins to harvest one acre of paddy field, 2,400 rupees per hour and machine costs around 20-25 lakhs.

Combine harvester companies says these are the most economically important labor saving invention, cheap, easy & time saving.

But, the problem is we need to collect the straw from the field, grains are to be taken to drying yard to remove excess moisture in the sunlight to store, need to wait for more than 8 months to dry further in the gunny bags for milling process to get raw rice. Again we have to dry one more time to get below 10% moisture of paddy before milling process. These are all the indirect disadvantages that we need to look for.

Due to abrupt stoppage of seasoning the grains with these combines, we will loose 5% of yield from unmature grains + 10% of waste on the ground in this operation. Finally we have to compromise with keeping, cooking, texture, taste, aroma & yield of rice.

In 1999 am the first person to introduce these combines in our area, after realizing the fact, this year we harvested manually in 6 acres i.e. 1/3 of my paddy growing area. Next year am planning to harvest manually and say goodbye to combines.

Tractor driven combine harvester

Kubota track type harvester – Japanese technology weighs around 3,350 kgs with grain full tank
Reel & cutter bar in action, Track type combine harvester
Grains storing at tank
Unloading to the tractor, it can rotate 360 degrees

The Bengal Famine: How the British engineered the worst genocide in human history for profit

The Bengal Famine: How the British engineered the worst genocide in human history for profit

http://yourstory.com/2014/08/bengal-famine-genocide/#

Rakhi Chakraborty | August 15, 2014 at 7:30 am

21999    

“I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion. The famine was their own fault for breeding like rabbits.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    -Winston Churchill

The British had a ruthless economic agenda when it came to operating in India and that did not include empathy for native citizens. Under the British Raj, India suffered countless famines. But the worst hit was Bengal. The first of these was in 1770, followed by severe ones in 1783, 1866, 1873, 1892, 1897 and lastly 1943-44. Previously, when famines had hit the country, indigenous rulers were quick with useful responses to avert major disasters. After the advent of the British, most of the famines were a consequence of monsoonal delays along with the exploitation of the country’s natural resources by the British for their own financial gain. Yet they did little to acknowledge the havoc these actions wrought. If anything, they were irritated at the inconveniences in taxing the famines brought about.

Image source

The first of these famines was in 1770 and was ghastly brutal. The first signs indicating the coming of such a huge famine manifested in 1769 and the famine itself went on till 1773. It killed approximately 10 million people, millions more than the Jews incarcerated during the Second World War. It wiped out one third the population of Bengal. John Fiske, in his book “The Unseen World”, wrote that the famine of 1770 in Bengal was far deadlier than the Black Plague that terrorized Europe in the fourteenth century. Under the Mughal rule, peasants were required to pay a tribute of 10-15 per cent of their cash harvest. This ensured a comfortable treasury for the rulers and a wide net of safety for the peasants in case the weather did not hold for future harvests. In 1765 the Treaty of Allahabad was signed and East India Company took over the task of collecting the tributes from the then Mughal emperor Shah Alam II. Overnight the tributes, the British insisted on calling them tributes and not taxes for reasons of suppressing rebellion, increased to 50 percent. The peasants were not even aware that the money had changed hands. They paid, still believing that it went to the Emperor.

Image source

Partial failure of crop was quite a regular occurrence in the Indian peasant’s life. That is why the surplus stock, which remained after paying the tributes, was so important to their livelihood. But with the increased taxation, this surplus deteriorated rapidly. When partial failure of crops came in 1768, this safety net was no longer in place. The rains of 1769 were dismal and herein the first signs of the terrible draught began to appear. The famine occurred mainly in the modern states of West Bengal and Bihar but also hit Orissa, Jharkhand and Bangladesh. Bengal was, of course, the worst hit. Among the worst affected areas were Birbum and Murshidabad in Bengal. Thousands depopulated the area in hopes of finding sustenance elsewhere, only to die of starvation later on. Those who stayed on perished nonetheless. Huge acres of farmland were abandoned. Wilderness started to thrive here, resulting in deep and inhabitable jungle areas. Tirhut, Champaran and Bettiah in Bihar were similarly affected in Bihar.

Prior to this, whenever the possibility of a famine had emerged, the Indian rulers would waive their taxes and see compensatory measures, such as irrigation, instituted to provide as much relief as possible to the stricken farmers. The colonial rulers continued to ignore any warnings that came their way regarding the famine, although starvation had set in from early 1770. Then the deaths started in 1771. That year, the company raised the land tax to 60 per cent in order to recompense themselves for the lost lives of so many peasants. Fewer peasants resulted in less crops that in turn meant less revenue. Hence the ones who did not yet succumb to the famine had to pay double the tax so as to ensure that the British treasury did not suffer any losses during this travesty.

After taking over from the Mughal rulers, the British had issued widespread orders for cash crops to be cultivated. These were intended to be exported. Thus farmers who were used to growing paddy and vegetables were now being forced to cultivate indigo, poppy and other such items that yielded a high market value for them but could be of no relief to a population starved of food. There was no backup of edible crops in case of a famine. The natural causes that had contributed to the draught were commonplace. It was the single minded motive for profit that wrought about the devastating consequences. No relief measure was provided for those affected. Rather, as mentioned above, taxation was increased to make up for any shortfall in revenue. What is more ironic is that the East India Company generated a profited higher in 1771 than they did in 1768.

 

Image source

Although the starved populace of Bengal did not know it yet, this was just the first of the umpteen famines, caused solely by the motive for profit, that was to slash across the country side. Although all these massacres were deadly in their own right, the deadliest one to occur after 1771 was in 1943 when three million people died and others resorted to eating grass and human flesh in order to survive.

Image source

Winston Churchill, the hallowed British War prime minister who saved Europe from a monster like Hitler was disturbingly callous about the roaring famine that was swallowing Bengal’s population. He casually diverted the supplies of medical aid and food that was being dispatched to the starving victims to the already well supplied soldiers of Europe. When entreated upon he said, “Famine or no famine, Indians will breed like rabbits.” The Delhi Government sent a telegram painting to him a picture of the horrible devastation and the number of people who had died. His only response was, “Then why hasn’t Gandhi died yet?”

Winston Churchill: Image Source

 

 

 

 

 

Image source

 

 

This Independence Day it is worthwhile to remember that the riches of the west were built on the graves of the East. While we honour the brave freedom fighters (as we should), it is victims like these, the ones sacrificed without a moment’s thought, who paid the ultimate price. Shed a tear in their memory and strive to make the most of this hard won independence that we take for granted today. Pledge to stand up those whose voice the world refuses to hear because they are too lowly to matter. To be free is a great privilege. But as a great superhero once said, “With great freedom comes great responsibility.”

 

Rakhi Chakraborty

Writer at YourStory. Student of human rights. Thrives on stories, ideas and innovation

The debt story less told

The Hindu, February 12, 2015, by K P Prabhakaran Nair

http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/the-debt-story-less-told/article6887610.ece

Small and marginal farmers in rainfed regions are trapped in a losing battle with agriculture — and with life

The lot of the poor Indian farmer keeps deteriorating with the passage of time. According to the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) data released on December 19, 2014, during the last decade, the bloated debt of Indian agricultural households increased almost 400 per cent Even the number of heavily indebted households has steeply increased during this period.

The report is titled Situation Assessment Survey of Agricultural Households in India, and is based on a national survey covering 35,000 households during 2012-13. Though the definition of an agricultural household has changed during the last decade, the basic features remain the same. The survey states that, on an all-India basis, more than 60 per cent of the total rural households covered in 11 States are in deep debt, though wide variations exist, ranging from 92.9 per cent households indebted in Andhra to 17.5 per cent in Assam. Loan patterns show it is 60 per cent institutional loans and 40 per cent non institutional loans. Moneylenders make up most of the non-institutional lenders.

Green revolution myth

Average debt per household is ₹47,000, while average income is ₹36,973 per annum. In 2002-03, India had 148 million rural households which increased to 156 million by 2012-13, a 5.4 per cent increase in a decade.

The data point to another disturbing trend. While average income from 2002-03 to 2012-03 increased by 318 per cent, most worryingly, total debt per household increased by 273.5 per cent during the same period, proving that while income from sale of agricultural products increased due to a price advantage during the last one decade, it has not translated into a reduction in rural indebtedness. Has the so-called green revolution really helped the poor and marginal farmer of India?

Benefits by way of better seeds or fertiliser input have been cornered by rich and affluent farmers in Punjab, Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh, Andhra, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. The poor and marginal farmers of Bihar, Odisha and eastern Uttar Pradesh are in a miserable state. There are reasons to believe that indebtedness of rural agricultural households cannot be just 60 per cent, as shown by the NSSO survey, but perhaps as much as 70-80 per cent.

 

The enthusiasts of highly extractive agriculture, euphemistically called the green revolution, based on “high input technology” — very liberal, often unbridled, quantities of chemical fertilisers, very expensive hybrid or Bt seeds, copious use of irrigation water — kept proclaiming the “success” of this revolution. But the poor and marginal farmers , primarily in the vast rainfed areas of the country, were simply left out.

 

Their farms remained parched, while their debts soared. The Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, where Bt cotton failed miserably in parched rainfed fields and farmers in thousands took their own lives, unable to repay the loan sharks, became a global shame. Only where rich farmers had access to assured irrigation water coupled with unbridled use of chemical fertilisers could Bt cotton perform well.

 

PDS leakages

Many farmers are unaware of the minimum support price. And, often, these farmers resort to distress sale of their produce to clear the loans from moneylenders, obtained at exorbitant interest rates. In collusion with unscrupulous local traders and commission agents, government agencies delay procurement of grains by, in some cases, as many as 50-60 days.

The poor end up spending more than 50 per cent of their meagre farm income buying food for mere subsistence, while the government procured grain in the FCI godowns finds its way into the hands of corrupt officials, middlemen and grain traders.

Though the contribution of India’s agriculture to the country’s GDP is 18 per cent and it provides employment to more than 60 per cent of the total workforce of the country, if one goes by the NSSO survey, the country is heading towards a crisis in agriculture. The Prime Minister would do well to rethink his ‘Make in India’ strategy. These poor and highly indebted farmers, most with no formal education, cannot be allowed to migrate to congested urban areas to eke out a miserable, daily wage-earner’s life.

Farmers indebtedness: Into the abyss?

http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/abyss

Author(s): Jitendra @jitendrachoube1 

Jan 31, 2015 | From the print edition

The situation of India’s farmers has only become grimmer in the past decade, according to the latest National Sample Survey Office report

imageIllustration: Sorit

The lot of the embattled Indian farmer only keeps on getting worse with the passage of time. In the last 10 years, the voluminous debt of Indian agricultural households has increased almost four-fold whereas their undersized monthly income from cultivation has increased three-fold. Even the number of indebted agricultural households has increased in the last 10 years. At the same time, there has been a micro-increment in the number of agricultural households in India.

All this is according to the recent report of the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), released on December 19, 2014. The report, titled ‘Situation Assessment Survey of Agricultural Households in India’, is based on a countrywide survey of 35,000 households by NSSO during 2012-2013.

It states that 52 per cent of the total agricultural households in the country are in debt. The average debt is Rs 47,000 per agricultural household in this country, where the yearly income from cultivation per household is Rs 36,972.

The report comes after a gap of 10 years. The last Situation Assessment Survey by the NSSO was for 2002-03. In that year, 48.6 per cent of agricultural households were in debt. The average debt was Rs 12,585. And the yearly income from cultivation per household was Rs 11,628. At the time, India had a little less than 89.35 million agricultural households.

In fact, some think that the report may not even be reflecting the entire truth. “The NSSO survey gives us an idea of the existing situation but not the clear picture. In my opinion, it is not just 52 per cent agricultural households that are in debt but 80 per cent,” says Devinder Sharma, a food analyst. “If you adjust for inflation, on an average 7 per cent every year, farmers’ incomes have remained frozen in the past 10 years,” says Sharma.

The other main takeaway from the NSSO report is that the debt is being incurred by the the richer, more prosperous farmers. NSSO data shows that richer agricultural states like Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Punjab have the highest average outstanding loans per agricultural household, whereas poorer states like Assam, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh have the lowest amount of average outstanding loans.

This is substantiated by the data which shows that among agricultural households which possess less than 0.01 ha the share was only 15 per cent of the total outstanding institutional loan, whereas for households which possess more than 10 ha the share was about 79 per cent.

Reasons behind the rise

The question then is: why have farmers’ debts increased? Ashok Gulati, former chairperson of Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP), thinks outstanding loans to farmers are natural because of increasing intensification in agriculture. “As the intensification of agriculture increases, so does the loan.

The loan would be in the form of working capital, else the fixed capital will increase,” says Gulati.

image

Others believe that this report is like the one in 2002-2003 and brings out the same systemic problems. They add that India has not learnt anything in the past one decade. One such issue is investment in the sector. Even as agriculture has intensified, investment in it is very less. Even the yearly agriculture budget is not more than that of the flagship employment guarantee programme, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).

“The current year’s budget of agriculture was nearly Rs 31,000 crore while the MGNREGA budget was nearly Rs 34,000 crore. If we see the seven-year budget, the ministry budget was never more than MGNREGA,” says Sharma.

According to A note on Trends in Public Investment in India by S Mahendra Dev, Director, Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai, the share of private investment in total investment in agriculture increased significantly over time from about 50 per cent in the early 1980s to 80 per cent in the decade of the 2000s. In other words, the share of public investment declined from 50 per cent to 20 per cent during the same period.

The public sector investment showed a negative growth in the 1980s and 1990s and a growth of 15 per cent in the 2000s. On the other hand, growth rate of private investment increased gradually from 2.5 per cent in the 1980s to 4.1 per cent in the 1990s and 52 per cent in the 2000s.

Another reason debt has increased is that market price of agricultural produce is not commensurate with rising input cost. Dev says that two-thirds of farmers do not get minimum support price (MSP) for their crops and are compelled to sell their crops at lower rates in the open market.

“Seventy-five per cent of farmers in India sell in the open market at lower than fixed MSP. Only the farmers of Punjab and Haryana get MSP. The situation of other states is deplorable,” says Dev. “For instance, in 2009, when I was the chairperson of CACP, in states like Bihar, farmers used to get Rs 700- Rs 800 for paddy when the MSP was fixed at Rs 1,000.”

The reason for farmers not being able to get MSP, according to the NSSO data, is that large numbers of them are not even aware of it. As per the data, only 32 per cent of paddy farmers are aware of MSP. But even then, less than half are able to sell their produce in government procurement centres.

“In collusion with local traders and commission agents, government agencies delay in starting procurement centres by 30 to 50 days. In between, farmers sell their produce to traders at lower than minimum price,” says Yudhveer Singh, a farmers’ leader.

image

Gopal Naik, who teaches agro-economy at IIM Bangalore, feels that total collapse of agriculture extension centres could also be the reason behind the outstanding loans and poor conditions of farmers. “The agriculture extension centres have collapsed. At one time, they were helping and guiding farmers in a number of situations like making the best use of pesticide, fertiliser consumption and modern tech, and making them aware of MSP and the nearest procurement centres,” he says. “Now farmers depend on dealers and sellers of pesticide for all that, which results in losses and non-profitability,” he adds.

Skewed debt

Naik believes the loan-waiving culture of the government also fuels continuation of outstanding loans. “Government policies are uncertain and increase the tendency of not repaying loans. It can also be a reason of increasing outstanding loans.encourage non-repayment of loans. The big land holders have high outstanding loans because they can easily access credit from institutions. They can access loan for other activities like setting poultry and other farms and wait till the government waives their loans,” says Naik.

The data shows that about 60 per cent of the outstanding loans were taken from institutional sources which included government (2.1 per cent), cooperative societies (14.8 per cent) and banks (42.9 per cent). But while the big farmers can afford to take loans, the small farmers still have no access to them.

“Credit from institutional sources is still a dream for small and marginal farmers,” says Jasveer Singh, a Bengaluru-based senior researcher who works on agricultural labourers’ issues. Anshuman Das, an activist who works with small farmers in Jharkhand, thinks that while they do not get institutional loans, they help in maintaining food security of the country.

“The small farmers practise farming which is different from that of big land holders. They try to keep investment low and innovate. For this, they do not access institutions for loans but are still dependent on non-institutional money lenders,” says Das.

The increasing debt and its skewed nature are surely driving many farmers away from agriculture. Agricultural house-holds are moving away to livestock, other agricultural activities, non-agricultural enterprises and wage employment. Data shows that 37 per cent of agricultural households no longer have agriculture as their principal source of income.

The contribution of agriculture in India’s GDP is nearly 18 per cent and it provides employment to nearly 56 per cent of the total workforce of the country. Despite this, as the NSSO report shows, the sector is no longer the first preference of rural households in India. It is heading towards a huge debt crisis and will need serious policy intervention instead of an ad-hoc approach.