Mahatma Gandhi said that "India lives in village and I preferred to be known as farmer". It is true that majority of our people live in villages engaged mainly in agricultural and allied activities as the main source of their income. Agriculture plays a very significant role in our socio-economic development and socio-cultural life of our people. Unfortunately, the contribution of agriculture in our economy has been continuously falling from 55.1% in 1950-51 to 37.6% in 1981-82 and further to 13.9% in 2014-15 as per the estimates released by Central Statistics Office
Over a centuries agriculture has seen gradual change, but the change has not been in pace with the requirement of time. Even today our farmer follows traditional and non-scientific way of farming. Seeds are strewn across fields in random fashion with no consideration as to how many plants will actually grow in a given area. Our irrigation depends on monsoon. Farmers are unknown about the proportion of fertilizers or pesticides required to be given per hectare of land. They use excessive amount of these chemicals, which kills the productivity of soil.
It is to our surprise that farmers in USA produce seven times more wheat per hectare than those in India. They do precision farming rather than imprecise farming which is being followed in our country. Due to Green revolution, India has become self-sufficient in producing food so as to feed the entire population but now there is an urgent need of shift from intense subsistence agriculture to commercial agriculture.
It really pains to say, in spite of growing demand of food due to increasing population, introduction of few scientific technique in our agricultural system and some support from our government as subsidy, farmer suicides has become very common. As per National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), forty six farmers commit suicide every day in our country and it accounts to 11.2% of total suicide in India. But the question arises, Why this many suicides?
As per the study greater debt burden and reliance on informal source of credit are the main reasons behind the suicide of farmers. More than 80% of farmers working in this sector are marginal and small scale farmers having very small land holdings. They depend on loan from private money lenders or from the financial institutions for the cultivation of their land and they depend solely on agricultural harvest, which they will use to repay the loan and to meet their family expenses, children education and marriage. Now we can well imagine the state of farmers if due to any reason, the crop fails.
Our government has several schemes for decades now to help farmers to modernize their holdings but high initial investment required along with negative subsidy on fertilizers, water, pesticides, electricity have simply meant that small farmers could not reap the benefits of the scheme. The small holdings of farmers continued to be a big problem and therefore the input subsidy given by government do little benefit to the farmers. Apart from this we all know government assistance does not reach the neediest segment. Our system has been such where rich has become richer and poor has become poorer.
Our government thinks that giving subsidy to farmers, it will reduce the burden of farmers but unfortunately most of our farmers do not even qualify for bank loan. Even today they borrow money from moneylender at higher interest rate. As a 2012 government report revealed 85% of farmers who held 0.1 hectare of land had loans pending to money lender while among those occupying over 10 hectares of land, only 21% resorted to borrowing from unorganized sector. This itself shows how much the needy farmers are benefitted from government subsidy. The legendary method of money collection by money lender is well known to all of us. Finally when farmers find no way out they commit suicide.
In our country farming has become a profession of uneducated and illiterate. Neither the son of farmers want to pursue farming, looking at neither his father's condition nor does father suggest his son to get into this profession. It is a high time to save our agriculture. If it continues, the days are not far when we will have land and technology but no well-educated farmer to make use of all this. We can create technology but cannot force anyone to pursue farming as a career. So our government should help and encourage our farmers and we as a responsible citizen of India should give special respect to them for their hard work, so that they happily work hard in making our India a better India.
Gautam Kumar Jha