Protests by farmers have no intention of abating. Farmers have been striking at the New Delhi borderline for over ten months. While the farmers stand firm in their demand again to remove the three central acts, the Center maintains adamant, stating that it is willing to accept modifications to the fundamental laws but that a complete deletion is out of the cards.
As the impasse drags on, one topic that keeps coming up is whether farming changes would be needed if the three rules aren’t agreeable to farmers. Even so, well before these rules were enacted, Indian agriculture was (and remains to be) in dire straits. Simply repealing the legislation would result in a return to the past, detrimental to the suffering farming village.
Agricultural debt in India, 2018
Indian agriculture is in a terrible state that has never been in question. However, the newest Situational Assessment Survey 2018-19 study, which examined agricultural households and earnings in rural India, only confirms the worst concerns. According to this detailed analysis based on thorough research, the revenue of a farming community derived solely from crop production has been steadily declining. In fact, in 2018-19, the small farm household received more earnings than agricultural production.
This survey data should explain why farmers suffered inclement conditions to remain near the New Delhi boundary. And besides, as I’ve always stated, the demonstrating farmers’ seething rage is the consequence of decades of neglect and carelessness. Agriculture has indeed been maintained destitute on purpose to preserve structural reforms sustainable. This is how the economic plan was conceived. In other words, farmers have absorbed the entire burden of storing food prices low, implying that farmers have been subsidizing the government.
The High Harvest of Farmers
These are the farmers whose labour resulted in a high harvest time after time, helping communities to pat themselves on the back and take credit for a great crop. Agricultural yields 187.75 million metric tons of milk, 174.63 million metric tons of paddy, and 102.19 million metric tons of wheat in 2018-19. A total of 320.47 million metric tonnes of horticulture crops, such as fruits, vegetables, spices, and field crops, were also produced by farmers. Farmers, meanwhile, have stayed at the bottom of the social pyramid despite abundant harvests. Agriculture has been easily destroyed to preserve food price stability and expedite the migration of people in need of cheap workers.
Agricultural expansion, according to macroeconomists, helps boost quarterly and annual GDP estimates. So that especially during the lockout, when the country was contracting, agriculture maintained the single bright spot, growing at a steady rate. In other words, agriculture has stayed true to its status as the economy’s backbone. However, there is where the gratitude and acknowledgement end. Mainstream economists and officials have shown no sign of being worried about the farming society’s suffering.
This leads us back to the topic of whatever agricultural improvements are required. After all, agriculture is still in the midst of a significant crisis and has been pleading for help. Farmers must be pulled out of poverty as soon as possible by providing farming as a viable option. This will be done if policymakers are prepared to make significant moves to realize PM Narendra Modi’s Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas objective.
Given the regularity with which this topic is brought up, and at the risk of appearing repetitious, let me remind you that the three principles of transformation that Indian agriculture urgently requires are:
- Provide farmers access to the Minimum Support Price (MSP), a lawful authority. While MSP is declared for 23 crops each year, it is only effectively implemented for two of them: wheat and paddy. This rule must be expanded to include all crops for which set rates. Yet, this does not imply that the entire family farm produce must be purchased. It simply means establishing a minimum price under which farm produce prices cannot fall.
- Increase the number of APMC-regulated mandis in the network. Even though there are several inconsistencies in how APMCs are handled, it is critical to address them rather than throw out the baby with the bathwater. Markets must get nearer to the farm to reduce distress sales and brutal trade exploitation. If a market must be provided within a 5-kilometre radius, India will require 42,000 mandis. The private sector should be stimulated to open mandis following APMC marketing guidelines. A successful business will be instilled as a result of this.
- Start with various types of kale and other vegetables, fruits, pulses, and oilseeds, and duplicate the Amul dairy cooperatives. Also, rather than allowing corporations into agriculture, strengthen cooperatives. Appropriate public sector resources, as well as structural reforms in agriculture markets, will be required. Not to mention that when people purchase milk from the dairy sector, the farmer’s portion of the final consumer price is about 70 to 80 per cent. Farmers’ portion of the final consumer price in America, where free enterprise function in agriculture, is barely 8%. We want to create a mechanism that pays farmers 70-80 per cent of the final consumer price.
- 4. The government to invest in FPOs not to turn them into collectors of large sums of money but to strengthen them as market actors. Because FPOs are producers offering jointly and hunting for purchasers, they must be free from fee obligations in marketplaces.
- 5. Procurement policies should be amended to incorporate a more diverse food basket and decentralized and localized procurement. Actual cultivator purchasing should be accessible even though authorities and procuring organizations try to keep dealers out of the game. This can be accomplished if development agencies manage purchasing operations at the local levels.
Even once an MSP guarantee system is implemented, regions that are now reliant on the existing procurement system for their survival will specify a specific diversity support package since a new surface environment would need to be developed for diversity to occur.