- Farm laws were good but repealed under pressure
- Small farmers are the worst sufferers
Suicides, unfortunately, have become the prerogative of farming community in India barring a few cases of weavers. India, a country with vast stretches of land, is an agricultural country and the occupation of majority of Indians has been farming. The elder brother of God Krishna, Balarama carries a plough on his shoulder. It indicates that farming has been the prime occupation of Indians since ages. But after independence, in the sixties, we did not produce enough food grains and needed help from countries like the USA. Scientists like Dr Swaminathan brought in ‘Green Revolution’ by producing high yielding hybrid varieties of wheat. Today we are exporters of many kinds of agricultural produce. We are almost the biggest producers of vegetables and fruits. Dairy has been an associate of agriculture in the Indian context. We are the highest producers of milk too. In spite of such phenomenal progress in agricultural sector why majority of our farmers remained poor and helpless is a question to be investigated.
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Not cost effective
Farmers in India are mostly less educated and follow age old ways of farming. Even when an educated person advises them they are apprehensive of his efficacy. In recent years they started using modern ways but it was not cost effective as most of the farmers owned very small pieces of land. Those who had large chunks of land and could invest money in getting water and use machines could get good yields and had been getting richer year by year. But for the small farmers’ economies of scale was a problem. Cooperative farming was advised but it did not survive even in Communist ruled state Kerala. Using fertilizers and pesticides indiscreetly without crop rotation had been a problem. Though bank loans were made available to farmers some of them might not repay the loans because of some natural disasters and consequent crop loss. Spending a lot for marriages and other ceremonies also make them go to private lenders who charge high rate of interest. Obviously it will eat into the profits of the farmer and he is caught in a vicious web of loans leading some of them to suicides.
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Menace of middle men, manupulators
A big problem farmers face is middle men while selling their produce. Farmer gets very little but the broker, miller, wholesaler, retailer get their profits irrespective of the position of the farmer. Further big businessmen manipulate prices in such a way that when the produce of the farmer comes to market prices would be low. They buy huge stocks for low prices and keep them in warehouses or cold storage plants for some time and sell when the price is high. In the process both the producer and the consumer are taken for a ride. The Farm Laws brought in by Prime Minister was to eliminate middlemen and give freedom to farmer to sell his produce in any market. But politics of certain opposition parties and foreign forces made PM to repeal those laws and the small farmers continue to sell in fixed markets for fixed prices.
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Life style also leads to crisis
Another important cause for the farmer suicides is his life style. He does not have work for almost half of the year and spends that time doing nothing. He does not think of any other source of income as he does not have any other skill to earn in another way. It is not out of place to state that a well educated agriculturist friend of mine who lead the farmers of neighbouring villages too told me that depending on agriculture alone is not profitable for a small farmer. He made his followers have dairies too and get a second source of income by selling milk. Governments should think of training farmers in certain productive skills depending on their interest so that they can learn, produce and sell even online to get a second income. This would avoid idle talk, killing time in playing cards or other games in which money is likely to be lost to worsen his situation. This would even prevent migration of farmers from villages to towns and cities. Then the children of farmers too would not aspire for government jobs and would remain in profitable productive businesses with their skills. Government is training unemployed youth in Skill Development Centres. Will the governments think of Skill Development Centres for Farmers too?