My submissions are as under as I have seen that small and marginal farmers cannt do agriculture unless they are institutionalized. I invite like minded to work with me on this if thy feel convinced.
Plight of Farmers in India and the way ahead for their resurrection
Agricultural activity in India currently is unsustainable for small and marginal farmers. This phenomenon stems from fragmented lands that cannot absorb technology, perpetual indebtedness that cannot provide the inputs, scarce labor and tough to get productively out of them. Poor storage to keep produce safe from parasites, strings of middlemen deny the worth of their meager produce. Bureaucratic ineptitude, to tackle their problems, to mention a few, really strangulate farmer’s stamina.
The subsidy schemes of the Government never reach them due to corrupt officials who further exploit farmers. Many institutional interventions like NGOs funded by foreign agencies are all engaged in supposedly help rendering mode. Enormous monies poured into are siphoned off. These are futile in saving farmers from penury. Somewhere the wrong tree is being barked. The apathy and slothful attitude of government servants is exploitative. This is a major impediment that no one seems to put in check.
The unpredictable weather, depleting water resources and availability of the farm labor, adulterated seeds, scant power availability all collapse the farmer. Disillusioned and ridden with extreme poverty the youngsters desert their older ones in the villages to migrate to larger towns, ostensibly seeking employment. Endowed with poor education and lack skills required for an urban environment, they fail, and this drives them to tumultuous activities. Even some farmers with large land holdings up to 10 acres of lands are finding agriculture unsustainable.
Many authors describe that our farmers must adopt technology, resource mobilisation and sound management of the business of agriculture to improve their lot. If you stay in the villages and closely study them, it would be apparent that the farmers will not be able to do any of these. It is thus virtually impossible for individual farmers to gear themselves to adhere to these bombastic pronouncements. Naturally the farmer is so badly tattered that he needs hand-holding and get to address all their issues collectively.
“The survey also reveals that 56% rural households own no land. Around half of the rural households report that they depend primarily on manual labor to survive. Economist Prabhat Patnaik observes in Outlook Magazine: Our share of cultivators has fallen since 1951. A whole set of people who might have been independent peasants…have been pushed into the ranks of agricultural labor. They have no rights, no security of income, they are subject to the worst kind of drudgery because it is all manual work: They cannot organise. It’s just a miserable state of existence’.”
Since the stagnant rural economy offers meager opportunities for employment, a large segment of these households are footloose, circular distress migrants, evocatively described by labor anthropologist Jan Breman as ‘hunters and gatherers of work’. To stay alive, they will go to any corner of the country, to do any work, with any remuneration, on any terms. How true, as we see these migrants from lands far away, with different languages, culture reside by road-side to seek work!
These are the migrant workers toiling in the prosperous rice, wheat, sugarcane and cotton farms of Punjab, Haryana, Western Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. Construction workers building high-rise structures in cities across the country, semi-bonded workers in brick kilns that pockmark the country, workers building roads in conflict-endemic frontier states, and so on. Often boys barely in their teens set out to distant lands to earn some money to keep their families alive. But now increasingly families migrate along with men, interrupting children schooling, forcing women to bear and raise children on dusty city streets and shanties, and leaving behind old people in the village to starve, beg or die. Their plight is even more pathetic as they do not have a place to stay. They live on the parks or beaches and so on with their children. They are bolder than the ones committing suicides.
Admittedly only large farmers are finding this vacation sustainable and emerge as real producers of food grains in the country. They produce whatever is best suited for them or their managers, sensing the markets closely. Also, there seems no system to communicate with farmers to produce what is needed in the country. For example, if there is the shortage of pluses, there is no mechanism available to communicate with farmers to grow pulses. Even if there is one, is it possible to get farmers to grow pulses to fulfill the demand. What price will they secure? There is a lurking fear to take risks in such new initiatives. Again the middlemen would play havoc in the system. Organising skills is yet to develop to tackle such eventualities. Hence, Government has no other alternative but to import. There appears no system to assess, guide and fall into a norm for food production in India. With a generally poor administrative machinery, one wonders if the statistical information provided by the Government is authentic. It is thus clear that the Management of the affairs of agriculture needs refurbishment to get around the issues eluding the right answers.
Many models have been tried in this area by Corporate giants of the like ITC, Mahendra, Birla, Reliance, HLL, Rallies, Godrej, Pepsi to name a few. All of them have failed to resurrect small and marginal farmers because their real purpose is to make money for meeting their own purpose. All these companies are making good profits from agriculture because they only with large farmers in the country.
Another experiment was done on patterns of the suggested model in Chit tor, A.P under the patronage of the then CM, Chandrababu Naidu. The company suggested to the A.P Government was BHC Agro India Private Limited, to whom 200 acres of small and marginal farmers’ lands were given to conduct Corporatised farming. The company had a tie up with an Israel Company for the supply of drip irrigation, even though such a system was not new to India. A number of companies big and small in this sector are working all over the country. They started with 179 acres. Their poorly conceived and laid out the working structure. The farmers were asked to leave the village and not even a large land owner with 40 acres of land was spared from dislocation. Some few were engaged as labor for a low wage and treated badly. They operated with a huge budget and spent money like water in pesticides and high-value fertiliser. They had no systematic plan and did not engage any agricultural personnel but carried on with whatever manpower they had. This resulted in a total failure of the project and ultimately wound up. The farmers felt cheated at the end and of the experiment. Surely this is not the manner to commence the model. All these are in public domain.
I have seen that large farmers in our country with large tracts of lands, conduct profitable agribusiness. They have large financial resource and can organise local labor easily. They also benefit from Government’s largess in terms of waiver of Income Tax, fertiliser / seed and implements’ subsidies, loans from Nationalized Bank [even though they may strictly not need one and but they take it to expect “loan” waiver that happens many times]. One can appreciate the contrasting lives for two types of farmers in one country!
The amount of loss of stored grains is estimated at 30% to 40%. This is owing to poor storage facilities all over the country. Once I read an article that to accommodate grains of large farmers in Government go downs, large quantities of stored grains were thrown into the sea. Even when kept in go down, rodents devastate large quantities due to poor stacking, inspection and taking measures that can be easily controlled. There is poor accountability on those who are in charge of the management of this area.
These issues engaged my attention that led me to study deeply this distress. The way forward could be:
Institutionalisation, like a Producer Company appear to be a possible alternative. The corporate enterprise between the farmers and an investor, who can be an individual or a corporate body that is interested in sustained development of rural interiors. The aim must be for-profit motive but not exploitative. The company must bring in technology, resource and management at their command to deliver. They must be able to win the hearts of the farmers. To be clear, the model is not any charity or philanthropy to mention the least. It is to resurrect the small and marginal farmers from penury. This manner will support a sustained development of the villages and will truly benefit the constituents. The way it will work is:
1. While the investor brings in cash converted to equity shares, the farmer’s land is valued at the Government recognised rate and converted to equity shares.
2. Farmer’s lands shall not be owned or leased to the corporate partnering with farmers or the so formed Producer Company but stand as it is in its nature of ownership.
3. The company so formed shall engage professionals in managing the business of agriculture so as such an entity can be the world-class enterprise.
4. The shareholder farmers are provided with employment as labor and wages guaranteed all year around. They will be a part and parcel to the activities on the lands. Many literate or farmers with skills will be utilised and a manner that they shall have a feeling that they belong to a team and in fact owners.
5. The company will also induct farmers with special skills as part of advisors in the operations and pay wages as appropriate to their skills.
6. People without land can also be employed as labor. The company shall try and assess the potential of everyone in order to engage everyone.
7. Other non-farm activities can also be started to ensure full employment to all employable in the villages. This way employable youth, men and women will gainfully be employed and not leave the villages for unknown opportunities as is currently happening from many states. If some farmers are displaced for any reason, the company shall provide alternative housing. In short compassion of all sorts will be shown towards farmers who are partners with the company to take forward the tasks set ahead.
8. The agricultural operations will be executed by the Producer company with the help of experts engaged by the corporate. The experts managing the lands will ensure the creation of wealth that can be shared between the Corporate and the ‘landowner farmers’.
9. The farming operations will also be done in Organic cultivation. The farmers’ cattle will be optimally utilised to create organic fertiliser and also install gobar gas plants that will generate electricity for farm and lighting and cooking for the homes in the villages. Activities like milk production and downstream activities can gainfully.
- This will generate greater employment to those nearby. Many activities, like workshops for tractor repair, making implements for farming and the like can be initiated as well.
If these are professionally executed, there will be no fear of not generating profits for the FPC. The profits thus generated shall be mutually beneficial. For an existing Corporate, this activity shall be called a true CSR initiative. As the operations furthers many other initiatives can also be taken up such as the following.
Once the corporate gets into a rural environment, it can be energized into taking up rural uplift in a numerable manner. It can create health centers, schools, vocational training for youngsters in the related activity, over time create food processing centers and market value added products.
For example, training able-bodied men to create a cadre for tackling Security Issues that today has become a social menace in cities and towns.
Encourage sports activities to build future sportsmen; build them for partaking in Olympics!
Once the farmers have money with them through the activities of corporate farming, peace will descend in villages, Naxalites’ movements will wither away and prosperity will transcend. This will make the rural area prosperous.
Many replications of such models can generate greater momentum that will get kindled all over India, to make the country in the unassailable position.