A lot has been talked about Indian farmers, but so far they have been mostly viewed as the tool of votes only, particularly by our politicians. This time is no different. General elections knocking at the door, NDA government has come out with several measures for the farmers. In the last election manifesto, PM Modi promised one and halftime of the cost of production as supporting price of the grains, but amazingly his government took a U-turn before the apex court. Let us hope that this time the government would implement the budget provisions made for the farmers in true spirit.
Farmers lately became a buzzword in the Indian budget. After Independence, Dr. Manmohan Singh first time used the word farmer in the budget speech in early ninety. Subsequently, it became a customary buzzword at least in the budget, unlike its implementation.
This time several schemes niches for the welfare of the farmers. We can, no doubt will have to accept that this is the best budget for farmers so far presented before the parliament in independence India.
For farmers, there is a promise that minimum support price for the crop to be harvested post monsoon this year will be at least 50 percent higher than what it costs to produce. The government would also ensure that MSP is actually available to many more cultivators than at present. All the agriculture products have been proposed to be covered under this MSP. This must be an excellent idea.
The second one is mega health care programme, an insurance scheme that will provide a cover of Rs. 5 lakh a year for 10 crore families, or about 40 percent of India’s population. Although artisans, laborers, workers, poor are covered in this proposed scheme, it will no doubt cover most of the farmers too. This is the first time that such an ambitious scheme has been proposed. The salient feature of this scheme lies in its free delivery to the beneficiaries. There are other provisions for the farmers also like more funding on loan account and so on.
I will discuss first enforcement and delivery of these provisions made in the budget. Second the apathy of farmers and their solution.
This at a glance appears somewhat ambitious given the promised welfare splurge on health and income of the farmers. However, the budget left several questions hanging over “how exactly all these are to be funded.”
As far as health scheme is concerned, the key question lies in how quickly identifies beneficiaries, put a mechanism in place, and gets them rolling while ensuring that gains are not skimmed away insurance firms and private hospitals.
It is not a hidden fact that India lacks required numbers of qualified doctors and hospitals. The government hospitals are in bad shape. The private hospitals are mostly synchronized to the big cities, and less assemble to the poor and the downtrodden society. So the first, government will have to strengthen the medical infrastructure at large scale and at war front. All these need huge expenditure and the million dollar question is – from where the government will get the funds?
However, let’s think positive that the government will remove all hurdles.
Now, we come to the second part. I was born and brought up in rural India, a village in north Bihar. When I look back I find that farmers at large were financially secure. However, a number of them continuously fought for the fulfillment of their basic needs.
We are still a rain based economy. No rain, no crop, no money. More rain, more flood, no crop, no money. Moderate rain, bumper crop, price drop, no money. These are the real picture of rural India, by and large.
Another fact of the farmers is that they contribute only 14 percent to the GDP; they share 50 percent of employment. By contrast, in the USA only 2 percent jobs are from the agriculture sector. The conclusion is that we would have to provide alternative jobs to the farming classes to make them happy.
There is enough potentiality to provide them alternative jobs. There are several service sectors besides manufacturing sector, where we can provide our youths the enormous jobs. Starting from food processing industries, several parts of our country produces more than sufficient perishable articles like onions, potatoes, tomatoes and so on. Due to the lack of storage and processing lakh of quintals of these articles are rotten every year. Let’s provide the sufficient number of processing units near the production point. It can generate rural employment.
India and the world severely lack medically trained manpower. According to the World Bank, there will be a demand for 80.2 million health workers across the world in just next few years. Healthcare jobs are not attractive to the people of wealthy countries. We should train our rural youth to become health workers. There are around 5000 hospitals across India capable of training health workers. All these hospitals should be roped in to train our rural youths. There is an immense scope of employment in this field which can load off the agriculture sector.
The cattle farming are still in vogue in rural India. But their dung is not properly utilized. The biogas generation can be another glittering area of alternative employment.
These are not the least areas of alternative employment to our rural youths but there are many. The only factor is needed “honest and determined efforts of government.”
Every year roughly 12000 farmers take the extreme step and end their life. Most of them are from cotton growing states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. These are the worst affected states.
These states are well affluent, but they are on the top of farmers suicide cases. Contrarily Bihar is the poorest state among all, but farmers suicide rate are near to zero. Why? The answer lies in the large-scale migration of rural youths. If all the Bihar’s youths are withdrawn from the different part of the country, it is sure that Indian economy will badly suffer. So, suicides can be arrested only through alternative employment and alternative framings. Agriculture science has developed a lot. The crops that need less water, can be the best alternative for agriculture cultivation in these states.
Modi Government talks about doubling the farmer’s income by 2022. It will be proved a day-dream unless the alternative jobs are not provided to rural youths. As per one estimate to make the farmers income double by 2022, we need the agriculture growth of 12 percent per annum which is nearly 2 percent at present.
Concludingly, we can say that besides MAKE IN INDIA our slogan should be SERVED BY INDIANS.