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#IndiaUnites for Farmers and the Agrarian Economy

February 1, 2019 @ 9:00 am 5:00 pm

The acute agrarian distress in India cannot be emphasised enough. Since 1996, 3.2 lakh farmers have committed suicide – over 80% of these due to the unbearable burden of debt and bank loans. Despite the recommendation of the Swaminathan Commission of a minimum support price (MSP) calculated as 1.5 times C2 (where C2 is the comprehensive cost of production), farmers continue to receive crop prices that do not even cover the cost of production, let alone any additional percentage thereof.

The acute agrarian distress in India cannot be emphasised enough. Since 1996, 3.2 lakh farmers have committed suicide – over 80% of these due to the unbearable burden of debt and bank loans. Despite the recommendation of the Swaminathan Commission of a minimum support price (MSP) calculated as 1.5 times C2 (where C2 is the comprehensive cost of production), farmers continue to receive crop prices that do not even cover the cost of production, let alone any additional percentage thereof.

The second issue is distress migrations.  Surveys show farm incomes have been constantly falling.​ In 2011-12 according to official data, more than a fifth of rural households ​with agriculture as their primary occupation suffered from acute poverty and earned below poverty line incomes. In 2011, there were 9 million fewer farmers ​than in 2001. Census showed for the first time since independence, urban India added more people to its population than rural India did. Millions are leaving their villages​, migrating to other villages, small towns and cities in search of jobs that are not there​. Distress migration from rural areas ​to cities has formed numerous channels of exploitation making migrant workers a vulnerable workforce ​that can be subjugated. The migrant job market ​with casual wage and contract labour system is openly abusive ​and brutal ​without any system of state regulation or redress.

Recent years have seen this already precarious existence driven to outright unsustainability. Demonetization ravaged the already fragile agrarian economy leaving entire swathes of the country without any cash right at the time of harvest and preparation of new sowing. An entire year later, farmers were still reeling. Banks struggled to find cash. A Bank took to harassment to recover loans in one case. Crop insurance turned out to be a bonanza for the insurers, but not so for farmers. Cattle slaughter bans decimated the prices of livestock and turned them into a liability overnight. A liability that destroys the already imperilled standing crops. In some cases, banks and insurers have conspired to force farmers to purchase insurance if they want crop loans.

But there are no signs of farmers receiving incomes that can bring them back to sustainability.

Listen to journalist Parth M N describe the situation

Recent years have seen this already precarious existence driven to outright unsustainability. Demonetization ravaged the agrarian economy right at the time of harvest and preparation of new sowing. Banks took to harassment to recover money. Crop insurance turned out to be a bonanza for private insurers, but not so for state insurers or farmers when 83% of insurance claims went unpaid. Cattle slaughter bans decimated the prices of livestock and turned them into a liability overnight. In some cases, banks and insurers have conspired to force farmers to purchase insurance if they want crop loans.

But there are no signs of farmers receiving incomes that can bring them back to sustainability.

Ramandeep Singh Mann

Engineer, agri-policy activist

Jignesh Mevani

MLA, Gujarat

Nana Patole

Chief of INC Kisan Congress

Hannan Mollah

Gen. Secretary of AIKS

Dr. Ashok Dhawale

National President, AIKS

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