Income of farmers in some states decreased from 2015-16 to 2018-19, new standing committee report shows
India has been witnessing a wave of sporadic farmers’ protests over the last fortnight over the issue of fair prices. Last week, farmers demonstrated outside sugar mills in Karnal, Haryana, demanding a hike in the state-advised price of sugarcane. In Karnataka’s Mysuru, farmers staged a protest seeking higher fair and remunerative price for sugarcane and to open paddy procurement centres in all districts.
In Madhya Pradesh, farmers protested on the Jabalpur-Bhopal national highway after getting low prices for their green peas produce. A week ago, hundreds of farmers with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-affiliate Bhartiya Kisan Sangh congregated at Delhi’s Ramlila ground demanding remunerative prices for their crops.
But if the Prime Minister’s 2016 promise was anything to go by, farmers across the country should have been now making double of what they were half a decade ago.
On February 28, 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged to double farmers’ income by 2022 — his “gift” to the country in its 75th year of independence.
Instead, there is hardly any mention of the promise by the PM or agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar, let alone relevant data on any progress that may have been made.
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The target did not even feature in the Union Budget document for 2022-23, or in Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s speech in February 2022.
In the just-concluded parliament session, replying to the question on the same, Tomar merely mentioned that the “efforts of the government to double the income of farmers have yielded very positive results”, without giving any substantial data.
So, what is the status of farmers’ income in the absence of data? The most recent official data is from the National Sample Survey Office’s 77th Round of Situation Assessment Survey (SAS) of Agricultural Households released in 2021. According to this report, farmers’ monthly income in 2019 was only Rs 10,218 per month, half of what it should have been according to the promise. It was Rs 6,426 in 2012-13. But a larger share of this increase in earnings was from wages, not crop production.
At the time the plan was announced, the benchmark estimated annual income was Rs 96,703 in 2015-16, which was taken as a base year, according to the Centre’s report on doubling farmers’ income. This comes to be Rs 8,059 per month, which was promised to be doubled in real terms to Rs 21,146 per month, taking inflation into account by 2022.
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The income of farmers in some states had fallen between 2015-16 and 2018-19, according to a standing committee report released in March 2022.
Farmers’ income in Jharkhand decreased to Rs 4,895 per month from Rs 7,068, in Madhya Pradesh Rs 8,339 from Rs 9,740, in Nagaland to Rs 9,877 from Rs 11,428, in Odisha to Rs 5,112 from Rs 5,274.
The committee had then recommended the government to formulate a special team to figure out the reasons for falling farmers’ income in those states and take some course-corrective measures so that the “doubling of farmers income is not lost sight of”.
But a recent standing committee report released December 20, 2022 stated that no concrete step has been taken by the department in the matter, “except merely stating that the recommendation of the committee has been noted”.
Replying to the question in parliament, Tomar said the premise of the strategy for doubling farmers’ income was based on five primary principles: Increasing total output across the agricultural sub-sectors through realising higher productivity, rationalising / reducing the cost of production, ensuring remunerative prices in the agricultural produce, effective risk management and adoption of sustainable technologies.
While total output has increased, it cannot be substituted for an increase in income for farmers because they hardly get remunerative prices for their produce, according to experts. Meanwhile, prices of agriculture inputs such as seeds, diesel cost and fertilisers have increased substantially.
In three of the past five years, the Union agriculture ministry has spent less than what it had budgeted for centrally sponsored agriculture schemes.
On top of that, livestock farming, which was one of the important sources to achieve the target, also suffered a serious dent in the last few years due to livestock diseases like lumpy skin disease, African swine fever and avian flu.
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