Current Affairs

FARMER SUICIDES

FARMER SUICIDES

  • Occur at the approximate rate of about 1,500 per annum and represent 11 per cent of the total number of suicides in the country.
  • Subsidies exist everywhere Farmers are the holy cows of every country. They are the recipients of quotas, subsidies, and tax benefits not just in India but also in Europe and the U.S. In fact, benefits extended to the agricultural class in the West are significantly more than in India.

According to a World Trade Organization filing, India’s total farm subsidy stands at $56 billion; this caters to approximately 120 million Indians who are engaged in full time or part-time cultivation. In contrast, the U.S. pays out an average farm subsidy of approximately $20 billion to some two million farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural workers; the European Union pays €58 billion to its agricultural class that numbers slightly over 27 million.

These numbers offer some perspective on the state of agricultural subsidies in India and where the focus of reform initiatives should lie.

 

  • Interestingly, studies into the causes of farmer suicide have not yielded any concrete results. It is usually found to be a confluence of pressures, of which indebtedness is a major but not primary factor. In a 2014 study, a prevalence of three factors accounted for almost 75 per cent of farmer suicides
  • land ownership of less than 10,000 m2,
  • excessive reliance on cash crops,
  • a debt of Rs. 300 or more.

The increasing vulnerability of this particular segment of farmers is a long story. In essence, however, the Green Revolution of the 1970s and early 1980s exacted a price in terms of soil salinity, fertiliser consumption, and water requirement. Farms that were not viable tried to get more bang for their buck by opting for higher yields through modified seeds and by growing cash crops. These were more expensive and susceptible to the vagaries of the market; if a crop failed; the burden of debt on a small farmer was enormous.

Small holdings stay unviable

  • Admittedly, the government has had several schemes for decades now to help farmers modernise their holdings.
  • Unfortunately, the high initial investments required, in combination with negative incentives such as input subsidies (fertiliser, pesticide, water, electricity), have meant that small farms could not reap the benefit of these schemes and remained unmechanised, without micro irrigation, and with poor crop storage facilities. Thus, small holdings continue to be unviable and the input subsidies that politicians eagerly announce do little to change this fact.

In essence, government assistance does not usually reach the neediest segment.

  • Myth: that frequent bank loan waivers alleviate the penury of small farmers. In fact, most small farmers have hardly any collateral, and also fail to satisfy other conditions to qualify for bank loans in the first place. As a result, they turn to local moneylenders who charge exorbitant rates of interest.
  • As a 2012 government report revealed, 85 per cent of farmers who held less than 0.1 hectares of land had loans pending to moneylenders, while among those owning over 10 hectares, only 21 per cent resorted to borrowing from the unorganised sector.
  • The methods that moneylenders use to recover their investment are legend, and likely the direct contributors to farmer suicides.

Living on the edge

  • The cumulative result of corruption, inefficiency, and lack of access to finance keeps small farmers in a high-risk category, where just a medical emergency or a marriage — even the poorest in India cannot abandon extravagant marriage ceremonies — can tilt the balance from borderline sustenance to debt, poverty, and suicide.
  • Though the local requirements may vary from region to region, agriculture in India is desperate for a complete overhaul. This cannot be done in isolation — if farmers are to be displaced from their lands, there must be alternative sources of income for them. In that regard, this government’s ‘Make in India’ programme is vital. If industry and manufacturing can absorb labour, with a little regulatory help, farm holdings can grow larger and become viable.
  • Yet, for industry to expand, it needs power and land. This is where the government’s efforts to reform land acquisition laws and improve the energy situation in the country interlock.
  • Each sector carries part of the weight towards an eventual improvement in Indian agriculture and the lives of small farmers.

CLIMATIC DIAGNOSIS AND UNSEASONAL RAINS

  • TheUnseasonal Rain and Hailstorm across all over the North India and its connected states cause heavy damage of crop of Rabi Harvest in March 2015 in India.
  • Usually this period of year rarely gets rain but this year heavy rainfall destroys most of the Winter Harvest that almost near to cut. It directly effects the normal life, especially for farmers those lost their harvest and bag loss for this season.
  • Due to the crop damage on big scale increases the price rise of basic food items.
  • Approximately 106 lakh hectares harvest damaged and 80 Farmers attempted suicide only in March. It is also recorded the wettest march of last 48 years.
  • WESTERN DISTURBANCE caused rains(Wettest March)
  • Usually, from February, western disturbances tend to subside. But this year, not only were the disturbances more active, they extended up to April.
  • During winter, there is an inflow of low pressure depressions called western disturbances in north-west India. These westerly depressions originate in India and enter India after crossing Pakistan, Iran and Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Normally, They intensify over the north west India and move eastwards causing rain in Punjab and Haryana and snowfall in Himalayan belt.
  • The strongest of western disturbance rains usually occurs in North Pakistan where flooding is reported at number of times during the winter season.
  • But this time the rainfall has occurred right unto interior Karnataka, konkan and even Gujarat and that has resulted primarily because of the easterlies as they are equally north of their normal positions and the trough in easterlies has pumped in lot of moisture from Bay of Bengal.
  • According to ICAR

The southward movement of western disturbance (WD) resulted into the development of trough over the region between Bihar and Vidarbha. A cyclonic circulation has been induced and laid over Rajasthan and Gujarat on 1st and 2nd March. The trough formation has resulted in change of direction of winds which has ultimately led the winds to pick up moisture from Arabian Sea and caused precipitation. The system brought rainfall on 1st March at several places in Maharashtra, Telangana, north interior Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. The rains continued on 2nd March in north interior Karnataka, Maharashtra and Telangana. The Cyclonic circulation has become less marked by 3rd March.

The WD lying over J&K has moved away northeast onwards on 4th March. The western disturbances caused rain most several parts of J&K, Himachal Pradesh and few places at Punjab during 3rd to 6th March.

 

A cyclonic circulation has developed over Srilanka and adjoining south Tamil Nadu on 04th. This has caused rain during the first week of March at several places in Tamil Nadu and south interior Karnataka and at few places in Kerala. This has extended to east Bihar and south Odisha by 5th March and became less marked by 6th March.

AREAS AFFECTED

Many districts across the country received excess rainfall compared to normal rainfall during the previous week. Though the rains were wide spread from North to South, states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Delhi, Uttarakhand, few districts of Sikkim, UP, Haryana, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, received high intense rainfall with more than 50 mm.

 

EFFECTS ON CROPS

  • The unseasonal rainfall impacted the horticultural crops such as Mango, Pomegranate, Apple, Grapes which are at different stages of flowering, fruit ripening and harvesting. The intense storms caused flower drop, damage to fruits and may cause pest and disease problems due to the conducive moisture conditions.
  • Crops which are harvested and left in the fields for collection suffered extensive damage. The seasonal crops, early sown ones, experienced lodging and waterlogging problems.
  • Parts of North East states received less rainfall than normal causing moisture stress to the standing crops.
  • The standing wheat, mustard and chana crops were hit the hardest
  • Among the crops Wheat suffered most i.e. across 62 lakh hectares.

 

 

STATISTICS ON DAMAGE

Destruction of crops over 107 lakh hectares over 14 state meaning the destruction of over 17 % considering the total Cultivable area is over 600 lakh hectares.

  • The small farmer is affected disproportionately.
  • The money lenders have already stepped up the pressure and farmers are risking the loss of their lands resulting in suicide.

INSURANCE ISSUES

  • The underlying problem is absolutely inadequate crop insurance system.
  • Successive Governments have failed to bring out a Model Crop Insurance Policy especially for small and Marginal Farmers who can’t pay monthly premiums.
  • Climate Proofing is what we really need to look at.
  • The Weather insurance is also there but it is done on area basis where the average of the villages determines the losses suffered. Area based Approach brings down operational costs of insurers but individual farmers don’t get adequately compensated for their losses.
  • Over 95% of Sugarcane and Paddy Farmers and 99% of Sugarcane Farmers don’t insure their crops.
  • Insurance companies are reluctant to enter aggressively into this sector as it increases their operational costs.
  • Moreover the 10% premium on Total Crop value is too high. It needs to be replaced with fixed premium value on per acre basis.
  • The scheme is so faulty that if 99 acres are affected and 1 is not, no compensation is provided.

COMPENSATION

  • The estimated loss to an average farmer affected by rains has been Rs 20,000 per acre but the government has announced a relief of just Rs 6,800 per hectare for rain fed areas.
  • Compensation for crops in areas with assured irrigation has been increased from Rs 9,000 to Rs 13,500 per hectare
  • for perennial (horticultural) crops from Rs 12,000 to 18,000 per hectare.

The relief is subject to a cap of two hectares per farmer.

Moreover the compensation announced in Rs 9000 per acre and the disbursed is 400 to 500 Rs per acre and prior to this it was 25 or 30 Rs per acre.

FOOD INFLATION

The damage may increase Food Inflation in coming months (CPI) though we see WPI decreasing but CPI is increasing.

The Weather jolt will lead to more import of oil seeds. India is world’s largest importer of Edible oil. India meets 60% of its demand i.e. approx 80-90 million tonnes of oilseeds through imports. If imports increase, inflation may increase. We have to see the price of wheat for Export as we have tough competition with Europe, Russia and Bangladesh. We can’t fix the prices which is not acceptable in the Indian market. The export of Wheat can offset the import of oilseeds.

GOVT. RESPONSE

  • FOOD FOR WORK PROGRAMME
  • FARM LOAN WAIVERS
  • Farmers can now avail of financial assistance if at least 33 per cent of their crop has been damaged by hailstorms, floods, cyclones, drought, pest attacks, cold wave/frost and other notified disasters — the current norm requires a minimum loss of 50 per cent.The compensation in such cases — to be paid from the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) and National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) — has been raised by 50 per cent or more.

 

SOLUTIONS

  • Crop loan waivers.
  • Speedy relief to farmers.
  • Central Govt should also share the responsibility.
  • There should be no exclusion in disbursement of relief.
  • The compensation must be adequate.
  • The crop loss assessment should be efficient, cost effective and accurate.
  • The crop evaluator should do a physical assessment, this is hard and time consuming and prone to error due to the difficulty in determining the relative size and location.

But advance tools of biotech and gathering photo evidences (GIS) would help in weeding out the dubious claims. The exercise would be done by millions of enumerators with GPS enabled gadgets and apps.

GIS àthe photos taken at two different times can help in determining the crop losses with the help of satellite imagery (Remote Sensing).

  • Development of Climate Resilient Technologies

ICAR has started the National Initiative on Climate Resilient Agriculture to enhance the resilience of Indian Agriculture covering crops, livestock and fisheries to climatic variability and climate change through development of improved production and risk management technologies. The technology for improving production and productivity constitute the integral part in the era of Climate change. ICAR helps farmers by teaching them through Krishi Vigyan Kendras(KVKs) .

CONCLUSION

  • When India became independent Agriculture contributed 50% percent to the economy, now it stands at less than 14%.
  • Agro Sector employed 88% workforce. Today 66 % are employed.
  • Although the number of farmers has fallen by 9 million in last ten years, the agriculture sector is the most widespread sector seen demographically and has a profound socio economic role.

Droughts, urbanisation, crop damage, suicides are shrinking India’s population of Farmers once regarded as heart and Soul of Indian Society and economy.

Question:

1.Due to unseasonal rains and climate change farmers have been forced to take the extreme step of committing suicides. Enumerate the reasons behind this trend. What solutions can be implemented to improve their plight? 2.India experienced unseasonal rains and that too double the average precipitation we get in March. Put forward the reasons behind this abnormality? Is it in any way related to climate change? Explain.

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