A dangerous trend

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Lack of incentives and institutional support are discouraging small time farmers to move out of the farming sector and find jobs in nearby cities to make a living. Such a trend can spell doom for the agriculture sector and will only jeopardise food security and lead to economic imbalances, cautions Sriprakash Menon.

When we live in urban areas, everything from grains to pulses and vegetables to fruits are made available through the local kirana shops or plush looking supermarkets. We readily pay the price and buy up these essential commodities without giving much thought to the people who produce them or the conditions in which the food grains may have been produced.

Today, India’s progress is not just because of its industries, but also stems from two selfless sections of people – farmers in the villages and soldiers guarding our borders. Acknowledging this fact, former prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri had coined the slogan “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan” for everyone citizen of India to ponder over their immense contribution to the nation.

It was only when I turned a part time farmer, a few years ago, I realised how difficult farming is. Though my forefathers were farmers, little did I realise living in towns and cities that there are several challenges which farmers confront everyday: shortage of water, lack of irrigation facilities, availability of good seeds, organic manure/fertilizers, labour, environmental factors likes rains, pests and nature borne diseases affecting crops and farm lands. Even after getting a good yield, farmers have to depend upon the government or market governed prices, besides being at the mercy of distribution and supply chain (the middlemen and traders who make most of the gains) to sell their produce.

Industries are as much significant as agriculture for any emerging economy, yet today India’s progress and self sufficiency in food production comes from its bumper crops and bulk of its agricultural output. For a vast majority of the population not going hungry to bed is because of the selfless toiling farmers in the countryside, who feed the nation.

Farmers are an extremely hardworking and sacrificing lot, who do not aspire for huge profits or try to find a place in the Forbes list of the most influential people in the world; they work tirelessly to feed the society endlessly. In the cities when we get most of our stuff in designer packets, we hardly think of the farmers who cultivate and grow the crops and arrange for the supplies to reach us against all odds of operations, storage, costing, distribution and so on.

Though the government has become more sensitive towards the farming community in the last few years, nothing substantial has been done for them, except launching a few schemes to generate employment. The new government led by Mr Narendra Modi has promised to revive the agricultural sector, which has been facing a crisis since long; we will have to wait and see for the results. While farmers are keen on increasing their yield and production with the help of modern technology and traditional knowledge, not much has been done to encourage the agriculture sector on those lines so that surplus commodities may bring down prices to make food available cheaper to the people within the country rather than multi national companies making big profits in the domestic market.

While industries especially IT-based have got a big boost from successive governments, enough importance has not been given to agro-based industry in the country. Agro industries have an immense scope for giving fillip to farming activities besides creating employment in villages and small towns.

Lack of incentives and institutional support are discouraging, especially small time farmers, who are now opting to move out of the farming sector and find jobs in nearby cities to make a living. Such a trend can spell doom for the sector and will only jeopardize food security and lead to economic imbalances. As the government is seized with issues like FDI(Foreign Direct Investment), SEZ (Special Economic Zone) and tax holidays for some emerging enterprises in the urban areas, it needs to critically evaluate the deficiency and challenges like improving qualitative skills and quality control in the agricultural sector. The big Indian success story lies in the fact that it is the farmers who are keeping the citizens of the country well fed and we cannot afford to neglect them.


Sriprakash-Menon

Sriprakash Menon

The writer is a documentary film maker, journalist and a small time farmer.

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