Curse of Being a Farmer

In spite of the IT and ecommerce bubbly boom, the truth is that India is still dependent on the agriculture sector as a mean to keep its citizens employed (especially in its disguised form). The truth remains unchanged even though the sectors contribution to the GDP coffers is menial. The facts – A majority of India’s population depend directly or indirectly depends on agriculture for their principal means of livelihood. At the same time agriculture along with Forestry and Fishing contributed just around 16% to the GDP last Fiscal 2014-15.

Agriculture along with its allied sectors, is undoubtedly the primary provider of livelihood in India, especially in the vast rural areas of the country. As per the NSSO, 90.2 million or 57.8 percent of rural households can be termed as agricultural households. Among the major States, Rajasthan with 78.4% has the highest percentage of agricultural households, while Uttar Pradesh at 74.8% and Madhya Pradesh at 70.8% trail just a bit behind. However, Uttar Pradesh is the biggest contributor in terms of number with 18.05 million agricultural households, accounting for 20% of the total agricultural households in the country. Two of these states- Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh states are also some of the most economically backwards states in India in terms of Per Capita Income (PCI); ranking in the bottom three among the major states of the country (as per FY 14 ranking). It is like there is a geographical divide with the Southern states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh having the smallest number of agricultural households at 27.3%, 34.7% and 41.5%. While Kerala with the least proportion of people involved in the agriculture ranks among the top 5 big state as per PCI.

It is a known fact that farmers are generally one of the backward classes in our country irrespective of their caste. More than 40% of these agriculture households have a BPL (36.4%) or Antyodaya (4.9%) Ration Card.  More than 70% of the so called poor farmers own less than 1 hectare of land. A farmers earning is irrecoverably linked to the size of their holdings (even when nearly 99% of the farmers own some form of land). This direct correlation between the two size of land owned and earning, means that the shrinking land size is having an adverse effect on the farmers earning. On an average an Indian farmer hold 1.15 hectare in 2011 of land. In the last 4 decades the figures have nearly reduced by half from 2.28 hectare in 1971.  During this time span no of cultivators or so called land owners has also doubled. The major reasons contributing to this reducing land size is the increase in population and break down of joint family system. In the 1970 some 50% of the households had marginal holdings while in the recent years this proportion has gone up to 67%.

With an earnings of around ₹6500 a month (60% or ₹3900 coming from farming activities) on an average, one is shocked into silence. Especially when one knows that they spend nearly 96% of the income as monthly expenditure, saving are just a dream. That means they are left with some ₹500 to spend on productive assets and save at the same time. God knows it is not possible to buy anything else leave along equipment for mechanization with Rs. 6000 a year.  This results in a majority of the farmers getting caught in the vicious cycle of loans. On an average a farmers has around Rs. 47,000 of loans in their name. It is therefore not shocking that 5600+ people killed themselves in 2014 alone.