The flip side of agricultural growth in Madhya Pradesh

Agricultural growth rate figures in the state appear to be unrealistic if one considers farm suicides and increase in number of landless farm labourers

By Sachin Kumar Jain
Published: Wednesday 10 July 2013

Sachin Kumar Jain I am in a dilemma over the veracity of the data available on the state of agriculture in Madhya Pradesh. Perhaps, the reader could help me in this effort. Chances are he or she could be as befuddled as I am on the matter.
In 2012, the Madhya Pradesh government prepared an integrated agriculture budget, deviating from the practice of preparing separate budgets for agriculture and its allied sectors. The same year, Rashtriya Kisan Sangh or the National Farmers Organisation, affiliated to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), picketed in the state capital with 100,000 farmers. In January 2013, the president of India felicitated the Madhya Pradesh government with Krishi Karmanya Puraskar, an award for agricultural excellence or achievements of the highest order in agriculture. There is no better feeling than knowing that farmer and farm workers are not only merely alive but better paid and living a contended life. What else could a grateful society desire for their food providers or the ‘annadatas’!


No of farmers who committed suicide



























Source – National Crime Records Bureau reports

At a time when it was believed the national agriculture development rate was oscillating around 2 per cent, Madhya Pradesh had an agriculture development rate of 18.96 per cent in 2011-12. It was reported that there was an increase in production of 54 per cent in pulses, 43 per cent in grains, 10 per cent in cotton and a whopping 143 per cent in oilseeds in 2011-12 compared to the previous year. The increase is not limited to just four crops; there was unprecedented increase in production of coriander, red pepper (chillies), garlic and fruits too. Food grain production increased from 16 million tonnes in 2010-11 to 19.46 million tonnes in 2011-12. Madhya Pradesh contributes 22.54 per cent of national pulses production while 400,000 hectares (ha) of its land is producing fruits, flowers and vegetables. Madhya Pradesh contributes 37 per cent and 54 per cent respectively in the national garlic and soybean production. That was marvellous!

When statistics seem positive, doubts and concerns are ignored and one hopes that agriculture is on the sustainable path to glory in the state. Now the latest data that has emerged indicates the state has increased its production of foodgrains by 2.31 million tonnes in 2012-13 (over 2011-12); the agriculture development rate has been 13.33 per cent this year.

Madhya Pradesh has set a highly commendable goal for itself—to make agriculture a profit-making industry or business. For this it advanced Rs 10,800 crore in loans in 2012 and loans worth Rs 12,000 crore would be disbursed to farmers in 2013. When the rate of credit disbursement is increasing at 8 per cent per annum, would debt-ridden farmers have any stake in this seemingly unrealistic agricultural growth rate? Can we also overlook farmer suicides, which do not seem to abate despite high agriculture growth? Between 2001 and 2012, 16,190 farmers committed suicide in Madhya Pradesh.

Just at this point, on June 10, 2013, the subsequent list of the state census data was released which includes information on people working in agriculture and allied fields. From 2001 to 2011, the total population of Madhya Pradesh increased from 60.38 million to 72.6 million or an increase of 12.2 million people in a decade. With the increase in population there should be a concurrent increase in livelihood and employment opportunities for the people; or in simple terms, the number of working people should increase. Census lingua franca calls this the ‘working population’. The working population of the state increased from 42.74 per cent (25.7 million people) in 2001 to 43.47 per cent (31.5 million people). So in the past 10 years 5.78 million job opportunities were created in Madhya Pradesh. That sounds extremely good.
Along with agricultural growth, these 10 years were crisis-ridden for the domestic household industry or cottage industry. In one decade, the number of people working in cottage or household industry went down from 1.033 million to 0.959 million.

Let me come back to agriculture and people engaged in agriculture. The data from the 2011 census shows the other side of the glossy picture. From 2001 to 2011, the number of farmers with either their own land or patta given by the government has decreased from 11 million to 9.88 million; in other words, 1.193 million farmers stopped being farmers or changed their profession. The government could gloat over this as an achievement of its policy to move people from farming to other industries and businesses. The government always maintained that the dependency on agriculture is very high but its share in gross domestic product is (comparatively) low. Perhaps these farmers sold off their land in the land market, benefited from the soaring prices, earned millions of rupees and are now living a life of luxury. If this had been the case, farmers would not need to end their lives of misery by committing suicide.
Census data reveals real picture

This narration turns to fantasy when we look at the census data of agriculture labourers. In 2001 the agricultural labourers were seven million and increased to 12.2 million in 2011; the agricultural labourers in Madhya Pradesh increased by 4.91 million over 10 years. Simply put, the farmers and land owners were turned into landless farm labourers by the magic wand of government policies.

The government is firmly committed to moving the farmers from farming. Can we thus believe that the number of people engaged or working in farms have come down? The census data evidently rejects the proclamation.

Districts at a glance
In the districts where the percentage of farmers has decreased, the number of farm labourers has increased by approximately the same (or near about)
  • In Sidhi district the percentage of farmers has gone down by 23.5 per cent while the farm labourers have increased by 19.4 per cent
  • In Singroli, the decrease in farmers is 26 per cent while farm labourer increase is 20.1 per cent
  • Dindori has 22.4 per cent less farmers and 19.7 per cent more farm labourers
  • Tikamgarh has 19.7 per cent less farmers and 17.3 per cent more farm labourers
  • This trend is also seen in Rewa, Umariya, Panna, Chhatarpur, Siwani, Sheopur and Shivpuri. There is not a single district in Madhya Pradesh where farmers or producers have not gone down and farm labourers are not increased

Approximately 71.48 per cent (18.4 million people) of the total working population was engaged or directly associated with agriculture as farmers and farm labourers in 2001. This has increased to 82.89 per cent (22 million people) in 2011—an increase of 3.598 million in 10 years. Not only this, 59.86 per cent of the total working population was dependent on agriculture and related work in 2001. In 10 years this has increased to 69.79 per cent. And the increase has not been in the number of farmers but number of farm labourers; the number of farmers has come down by 1.193 million while farm labourers have increased by 4.791 million.

If we look at the comparative percentages, has the dependency on agriculture reduced in relation to other sectors? The answer to this too is a big no. About 12.26 per cent of the total population were farm labourers in 2001 which has increased to 16.79 per cent. In 10 years, the total increase in working population has been 22.41 per cent but the increase in farm labourers has been 64.74 per cent. So in a sense, only farm-labour opportunities have increased in Madhya Pradesh.

The government openly, and brazenly, declares that cheap agricultural land is available for sale in the state and that the government will give concessions and rebates in taxes and other matters. The red carpet invites the companies to come to Madhya Pradesh and have absolute control over natural resources. In other words, it is a free licence to exploit and loot.

The state government policies are directed to make farming a profit-making industry or business. The census figures answer the pressing questions – for whom has the government turned farming into a profitable endeavour? At least, not farmers of the land!

Producer farmers and farm labourers data from 2001 and 2011 Census
  2001 2011 Change  
(in absolute number)
(in percentage)
Total population of the state 60,348,000 72,626,809 12,278,809 (+) 20.34
Total working population 25,793,519 31,574,133 5,780,614 (+) 22.41
Percentage of working population to total population 42.74% 43.47% 0.73% (+) 0.73
Producers/farmers 11,037,906 9,844,439 -1,193,467 (-) 10.81
Percentage of producers/farmers to total working population 42.80% 31.20% (-) 11.6% (-) 11.6
Farm labourers 7,400,670 12,192,267 4,791,597 (+) 64.74
Percentage of farm labourer to the total working population 28.70% 38.60% (+) 9.9% (+) 9.9
Total people in agriculture (farmers +labourers) 18,438,576
(+) 3,598,130 (+) 19.51
Percentage of people in agriculture to total working population 59.86 69.79 9.93% (+) 9.93
Percentage of people in agriculture to the total population 30.55 30.34 -0.21% (-) 0.21
Percentage of farm labourer to the total population 12.26 16.78 4.525 (+) 4.52
Percentage of people dependent on agriculture to total working population in year 2001 18,438,576*100/25,793,519 71.48%
Percentage of people dependent on agriculture to the total working population in year 2011 22,036,706*100/31 5741 33 69.79%
Percentage of farm labour opportunities to the total opportunities from 2001 to 2011 4,791,597*100/5,780,614 82.89%
 Source of data:
1. Census 2001 and 2011
2. Survey carried out by Vikas Samvad 


Sachin Kumar Jain is an activist and researcher closely associated with Right to Food Campaign



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