Agriculture is the backbone of Indian economy employing two-third of the population. It is not merely a source of livelihood but a way of life and hence issues related to farmers must be primarily acknowledged and understood. It is seen that farmers work hard for months and most of them finally end up failing due to bad monsoons, low harvests, high interest rates, low selling price and land availability squeezed by the real estate market.
The solution to the farmer's plight should be directed towards enabling the farmers to help themselves and sustain on their own. Temporary measures through monetary relief would not be the solution. The efforts should be targeted at improving the entire structure of the small farmers wherein the relief is not given on a drought to drought basis, rather they are taught to overcome their difficulties through their own skills and capabilities. The Government needs to come up with pro-active solutions and the nation has to realize that farmers' suicides are not minor issues happening in remote parts of a few states, it is a reflection of the true state of the basis of our economy. Given below are a few solutions that could help improve the condition of farmers:
- The dependency of agriculture on nature should be reduced. This calls for effective management of water during seasons of good monsoons.
- Making institutional finance available to every farmer is another important solution to save to the farmers from debt traps of money lenders. Where institutional finance is available, it should be made easily accessible to the poorest farmers. This calls for removing of elaborate formalities and procedures for obtaining the loans.
- Farmers need to be advised and guided on economical methods of cultivation which would save finances for them. The technological advancement in agriculture should be passed down to the small farmers.
- The government could also explore the possibility of pooling of the lands of small farmers and making a bigger chunk of economically cultivable land. Through pooling of lands, the small farmers can avail the economies of cultivating on a larger scale.
- Government should provide them with good qualitypesticides, healthyseeds, instruments required to cultivate their farms, proper water supply and proper electricity.
- Small farmers should be encouraged to develop alternative sources of income and the government should take up the responsibility of providing training to the farmers to acquire new skills.
- Price fluctuations due to demand fluctuations is another big problem for the farmers. Effective cold storage and ware house chain in partnership with private sector can minimize this fluctuation.
- Provision of relief facilities alone is not sufficient as it has been observed in the case of Andhra Pradesh where farmers committed suicides just to avail the benefits of relief packages. Relief packages should be given as a benefit to farmers to enable them to sustain their livelihood rather than as a relief to families of farmers who commit suicide.
- Farmers should get their dues respectfully. The government must ensure that middlemen/ merchants/ wholesalers are not duping them.
- Supply chain and logistics needs to be improved to minimize crop loss during transportation/ storage.
- Research on suicides has shown that sensitive reporting by the media can play an important role in saving lives and preventing copycat suicides.
To conclude with, I strongly feel that the only solution to this issue is holistic thinking, which would involve a collective effort of all concerned parties to farming: farmer, moneylender, insurance company, government, merchant/wholesaler and the end consumer.
- Neha P Asrani