By Dr S V N Vijayendra
Prime News, Karnataka, National, Mysuru, December 22:- In recognition of the services provided by the farmers and their role in the society, India celebrates Farmers’ Day on December 23 every year, coinciding with the birth anniversary of the former Prime Minister and kisan leader Chaudhary Charan Singh. It is true that whether we remember the doctor every day or not, we have to remember our farmers every day as they are feeding hungry population two to three times a day. On this occasion, it is our responsibility and appropriate to know various issues faced by the farming community and finding some solutions to it.
The agriculture sector, which is responsible for 18% of country’s GDP, is the backbone to the rural community, whose population accounts for almost 60-70% of the country’s population and farming is a way of life for them. The current generation of farmers is facing several agro-economic challenges. The population is increasing on one side and on the other side; increasing farm output is becoming hard due to the scarcity of natural resources.
Raising global temperature is one of the reasons for this. Crop losses due to heat waves, floods, unseasonal rains or drought are the order of the day. In our country, it is accounting to Rs 92,000 crore of crop loss or food loss at various stages and it is a national waste. Mismanagement is leading to food loss as farmers are throwing their produce on the roads due to non-remunerative prices for their input cost and labour and it is another issue our farmers are facing.
Recently, an angry farmer from Maharashtra state who was fed-up with the falling prices has sent the income he received (Rs 1,046) after selling 750 kg yield of onion (though onions are being sold at more than Rs 20 per kg in retail market across the country) for which he spent four months of his labour and investment, to the Prime Minister and another such farmer sent his paltry income to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra. These incidents, though less in numbers reflect the distress of our farming community and in the process farmers are being put to hardships with middlemen making money out of it. Farmers’ unhappiness reflected in mass rallies by lakhs of farmers coming onto the streets in Mumbai and New Delhi recently.
Increased input costs (labour, seeds, fertilisers and pesticides, etc), borrowing money from private sources due to various reasons, not getting remunerative prices, unable to support the family and bear the losses are leading to farmers’ suicide, which is very high in our country. These are reflecting the hardships in agriculture in the country. With many in younger generation not showing interest in farming activities, there is a threat to food security in the future.
Waving of farm loans may be a temporary relief to the farmers. For long-term benefits and sustainable farming, agriculture should become an enterprising activity where farmers can reap the benefits. Establishing farmers’ co-operatives on the lines of dairy co-operatives will be a big success, maybe a viable alternative to avoid such losses and interference of middlemen. Value addition by food processing, providing cold storage facilities for storage and transport, focusing on demand and supply through logistics can address the issues being faced by the farmers to a certain extent.
Like many farmers, especially small and medium farm holders, are not well educated, they need the support of the society and the government to a large extent to keep them happy. Contract farming, providing proper information in advance on weather conditions to save the harvested crops from getting submerged in water, expanding crop insurance to all crops, arresting the entry of spurious pesticides, fertilisers and seeds into the market, proper planning to avoid fall in prices of agricultural commodities due to surplus production, etc,, can also enhance farmers’ income. Though the government has set a target date of 2020 to double the farmers’ income, a lot of efforts are needed in this direction to make it a reality. (The author has been a regular contributor to CityToday and a prominent crusader for the upright values in our society.)