India’s deepening farm crisis: 76% farmers want to give up farming, shows study

Benefits of government schemes and policies go to big farmers, shows survey undertaken by CSDS on behalf of farmers’ association

By Jyotika Sood
Last Updated: Monday 12 March 2018

Farmers interviewed said they are incurring repeated losses because of unseasonal rains, drought and floods

A study by a premier social sciences research institute reinforces what policymakers and media have been talking about the past few years—that India is going through a deep agrarian crisis. The Centre for Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), based in Delhi, found that given an option majority of farmers in the country would prefer to take up some other work. Poor income, bleak future and stress are the main reasons why they want to give up farming. Around 18 per cent of respondents surveyed said it was because of family pressure that they are continuing with farming. The CSDS study report, “State of Indian Farmers”, was released in Delhi on Tuesday.

Why they want to give up farming

The survey of 5,000 farm households across 18 states says that 76 per cent farmers would prefer to do some work other than farming. Sixty-one per cent of these farmers would prefer to be employed in cities because of better education, health and employment avenues there. A high percentage of farmers complained of repeated losses; 70 per cent of respondents said their crops were destroyed because of unseasonal rains, drought, floods and pest attack.

The sample size of the study is not very large—just 36 households per district. National Sample Survey office (NSSO) and Census surveys, which also pointed to agrarian crisis and increasing number of people giving up farming, covered hundreds of thousands respondents. None the less the CSDS study lends further credence to reports of the poor state of India’s farmers

Survey findings
  • 70 per cent of farmers never heard about direct cash transfer
  • Only 19 want subsidies to continue as it is
  • Only 27 per cent have heard about the land acquisition law
  • 83 per cent farmers clueless about foreign direct investment (FDI)
  • 70 per cent farmers never contacted any Kisan call centres
  • 47 per cent farmers say that overall condition of farmers in the country is bad

CSDS director Sanjay Kumar says sample size is not an issue for any survey. “It’s how you select the sample, which matters most. The survey intends to give you an idea and not understand why.”

“If government finds merit in this survey, they can commission a bigger following the same parameters,” he adds. The districts for study were selected randomly from the list of districts that had high rural population and villages that had high dependence on agriculture, says Kumar. Over 11,000 interviews were conducted for the report, which included one female and one young member of the respondent household. The idea was to have insight into the socio-economic conditions, expectations and hopes of the farmers to understand what is ailing them.

The report says that benefits of government schemes and policies are being mostly given to big farmers having landholding of 10 acres (4.05 hectare) and above. Only 10 per cent of poor and small farmers with average land holding of 1-4 acres (0.4 to 1.6 ha) have benefited from government schemes and subsidies. The farmers blamed the state and Central governments for their present condition as 74 per cent of those interviewed alleged they do not get any farming-related information from officials of the agriculture department.

The survey shows that 62 per cent of interviewed farmers were not aware about the minimum support price (MSP) and among those who have heard about MSP, 64 per cent were not satisfied with the price government offers.

Poll turn

The study commissioned by Bharat Krishak Samaj (BKS), a non-political association of farmers, has come at the time when the country is going to polls. On the question of why survey was released at such a crucial time, BKS chief Ajay Jakhar says, “It’s just a coincidence that it has come out at this time. Since it’s out now, we hope that it would at least influence the government which comes into power when they are framing their policies.” 

“We appeal to all political parties to give proportionate representation to real farmers at time of Lok Sabha ticket distribution and promise the same at time of Cabinet formation. Only then can good policies be made and implemented.”

Handbook on some political issues surrounding food and agriculture in India

Enhancing agricultural livelihoods through community institutions in Bihar, India

Analysis of trends in India’s agricultural growth

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  • Farm Pay Commission, public

    Farm Pay Commission, public distribution system and resisting corporate farming.
    - Anoop Varghese Kuriappuram

    Farming is considered to be a non renumerative profession in india, it bears the black tag of pushing many peasants to suicide. There are very uncharitable arguments such as ÔÇ£indian farmers cannot modernize or mechanise agricultureÔÇØ, ÔÇ£we need corporate farming or contract farming to augment productionÔÇØ and ÔÇ£government should completely stop farm subsidiesÔÇØ . Propaganda continues like people need to move to other sectors of employment such as manufacturing and services. We are already in a scenario where the current life standard of masses does not demand increase of Industrial production.It is a stellar fact that nothing is as labor intensive as farming. When we pass through times of jobless economics, it is worth considering how to give employment to every one.
    In Indian context, answer is farming.

    Study conducted by many agencies point out the urbanization is happening in a rapid pace and people are leaving their impoverished villages to city for better opportunities. It is worth mentioning here that cities due to structural problems of itÔÇÖs people management has become heaven for few and hell for many. People who leave the farm land to city essentially fall into the low economics category and ends up leading a ÔÇ£low qualityÔÇØ life. When we talk about stopping urban migration, the first thing to be done is to make farming attractive. There are ways such as scattering production zones across land , but due to many factors such as lack of infrastructure- they bear a tag of ÔÇ£not nowÔÇØ. All this facts and propaganda actually hints at a solution of ÔÇ£corporate farmingÔÇØ. India as nation has suffered enough for allowing greedy corporates to enter to crucial sectors .we can just think ÔÇ£gas priceÔÇØ as an example.

    There are many lies propagating like ÔÇ£investments in land will increaseÔÇØ, ÔÇ£new technologies will be deployedÔÇØ, ÔÇ£modernization of agriculture will happenÔÇØ, ÔÇ£innovative seeds (read GM) will be used for bumper cropsÔÇØ etc etc. As the voice of working class and peasants, vanguard party in india should consider these steps as the preparation for introducing ÔÇ£ corporate farmingÔÇØ. Decks are getting cleared one by one, last one being Shri Moily allowing of GM trials.

    Farm Pay commission idea mooted by peasant organizations umbrella organization(Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA)), is worth considering in this context.
    In Simple terms, idea goes like government awarding a salary for a farmer in exchange of his promise to deliver minimum quantity of goods to government system. An Example would be government awarding 10,000 rupees per month to a farmer for producing 1 tonne of potato. The goods procured like this can be pumped to public distribution system, which is in a paralyzed state. This step can promise a sure shot defence against retail food inflation which is untamed and puzzling economists in india.
    There can be additional incentives for promoting pesticide and chemical fertilizer free farming.
    Steps and thoughts in this direction would drastically stop urban migration, raise quality of soil and increase quality production and intangibly will increase health of nation. Working class and Peasants should unitedly place ÔÇ£Salary for Minimum ProductionÔÇØ in public domain as the solution of farm crisis in india.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 6 years ago | Reply
  • Primary and the most honest

    Primary and the most honest production is from agriculture and yet the most neglected sector is agriculture by the Government as well as civil society. This is a very dangerous trend aggravated by luxury Industries and environmental fundamentalists, the former amassing wealth by dishonest and unnecessary production thrust upon people by media and the latter projecting, farmers as enemies of nature, either from ignorance or pretended sensitivity to environment excluding man. Development of science and arts starts from settled civilisation beginning from agriculture. So, it is high time to focus on agriculture lest the society with all its modern pretension is doomed. Therefore salary for production and pension for disabled/aged farmers are good sugesstions to save the bread winners

    Posted by: Anonymous | 6 years ago | Reply
  • Very interesting article.

    Very interesting article. Agriculture is the backbone of the Nation.
    Norman Ernest Borlaug ÔÇô the legendary American agronomist once commented, ÔÇ£Man's survival, from the time of Adam and Eve until the invention of agriculture, must have been precarious because of his inability to ensure his food supplyÔÇØ. Men have had always fought against nature and all odds to satiate that one universal need ÔÇô the need to ensure his food supply and making his family food-secured.
    Procurement of food is one of the bigger challenges that third world countries like India face. This is despite of the fact that India today ranks 2nd in the world in agricultural output. According to the World Bank standard index of international poverty threshold of $1.25 a day, close to 42% of the total Indian population lives below the poverty line.
    Agriculture in India is the largest economic sector. Farm output in India accounted for 14.6% of the GDP during the fiscal year 2009-10. But the country is facing severe shortages in food supply resulting in continued inflation and increase in food prices. The countryÔÇÖs population is growing faster than its ability to produce.
    Problems ailing the growth of Indian agriculture:
    The sectorÔÇÖs competitiveness is largely affected by overregulation of agricultural trade resulting in increased costs, price risks and uncertainties.
    The lack of infrastructure development in this sector especially in the rural areas beggars description. Inadequate irrigation facilities, lack of access to technology to improve efficiency in agricultural practices, poor road condition, lesser supply of electricity etc are key issues that are holding back the sector. The country spends only 0 .3% of its agricultural GDP in Research and Development. There is no incentivized framework for sustainable water management and irrigation facilities. The farmers solely remain at the mercy of the rain Gods (good monsoon) for better yields.
    One of the primordial problems of the sluggish growth of Indian agriculture is small field sizes. Approximately 59% of the operational holding of the country have sizes less than 1 hectare. While green revolution states like Punjab and Haryana have a much better holding size of more than 4 hectares, regions with dry land and having poor reception of monsoons find it very difficult to better their produce. Though there is scope of precision agriculture to substantially increase the yields of crops, rice and wheat, but inadequate infrastructure and lack of technological expertise is a major roadblock to move towards scientific ways of tackling these challenges. The rain fed and dry land regions see high level of subsistence farming. Consequently these farmers rarely do purchases in the marketplace thus consuming their own produce. Some solutions: Encouraging entrepreneurship amongst the farmer community by educating them about farming processes, providing marketing support to sell their yields directly in the market, helping them get access to credit and capital, newer technologies, encouraging non-farm activities, serving better amenities like electricity, water and helping skilled farmers get employment in the labor markets etc are all immediate measures the Govt. needs to take to revive the sector.
    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

    Posted by: Anonymous | 6 years ago | Reply
  • It is clear that youth are

    It is clear that youth are not at all interested in agriculture. Unless we teach our kids the importance of agriculture rather than only maths and sciences, which is to help those outsourcing companies than us, even remaining 24% prefer to migrate to cities.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 5 years ago | Reply
  • It's nice

    Posted by: Amar Choudhary | 2 years ago | Reply
  • A Perspective on emancipating small and marginal farmers in India

    “The continued flight of capital from farms, lack of profits, fragmentation of land, rising input prices and pressure lobbies like food security and Swadeshi, have nearly made it impossible to sustain farming,” said Sharad Joshi a farmer and a member of Rajya Sabha till July 2010. He was a farmer from Satara, Maharashtra and even said that marginal and small farmers must leave farming and migrate to cities. This was in desperation as his ideas were unacceptable then!
    A lot of water has flown under the bridge about how farmers can sustainably conduct agriculture and arrest migration of their youngsters to urban areas. There is a solution for every farmer. We need to put one's shoulder on the wheel.
    We should not expect the Government to solve all the problems. Governments can only fill in when a common person cannot accomplish, tasks that are huge in size, expensive and complex. For instance, road connectivity from villages to markets to reach the markets, a storage facility for crops to keep crops protected and hedge the price, irrigation to reach every land in the village to move away from rain-fed farming, making government purchases for distribution to fair price shops from marginal farmers to realise the worth of his work and realising the MSP and equity with big farmers. The rest must remain in the farmer’s domain. Let us examine how this can be achieved.
    To attain good growth in any production oriented unit, four factors of production is essential. Applying this to agricultural operations, land, labour, organisation and Capital are vital. Small and marginal farmers have the first two but the lack the others. Entrepreneurs have the other two factors. Enjoining entrepreneurs and farmers can address the issues of agriculture effectively and sustainably.
    It is established that marginal farmers cannot conduct agriculture all by themselves because the challenges before them are formidable. They cannot independently carry on with farming on their lands to create a sustainable vocation, as challenges are beyond their capacity to resolve. Hence farmers should pool their lands without dispossessing their title and enjoin with a group of professionals who will bring capital, usher in technology, value-addition with marketing and bring in the capital. This group must form a Farmer Producer Company to give it a legal and operational convenience under relevant law. Equity shares to farmers based on the value of their lands and for professionals based on the capital contribution in cash will collect the entire four factor’s of production to yield the best result.
    The key advantages that will be:
    1. Professionals can make the best plan based on soil, water and markets.
    2. Farmers will work for wages like an Industrial worker for the entire year.
    3. Profits (after providing for reserve) will go as dividends to shareholders at the end of the year.
    4. The accumulated reserve will serve for community building education and health.
    5. Those without lands can also be gainfully employed.
    6. One good startup will ignite passion in all villages in the country.
    7. The government need not spend money on subsidies.
    8. It can spend money on irrigation, power and road building, as no subsidy is required.
    This appears to be the only way to resurrect marginal farmers in India and perhaps in all those developing and underdeveloped countries in the world.

    S. Raghavan


    Posted by: Raghavan Srinivasan | one year ago | Reply
  • The condition of farming sector in India is deteriorating day by day, This is my take of farmers issues in India

    Posted by: Sanket | 8 months ago | Reply