Farming currently provides employment to little more than 52% of the population of India. Because of farming people can receive their primary food source, and yet farmers in the country earn probably the lowest salary of all, contributing only between 15-16% of the total GDP of the country, which is an incredibly small percentage in comparison to the people who are dependent of this income.
And with the issues the Indian agriculture sector faces, such as droughts, small plot sizes, depleting water sources, lack in productivity and modernization in their labour, farming ends up producing too little, generates poor income and increases debt for farming families that many times becomes too much for them to handle.
One of the biggest concerns surrounding farmers is the alarming suicide rates among them. With the current climate change, any increase in temperature that might dry out their crops, coupled with the minor changes these farmers have made to their farming practices, suicide numbers spike up, because of their inability to produce what they need as income. And with the amounting debts that 70% of the agricultural households across the country have, their reasons for taking their own lives away only increase.
Add the inefficiency of the government in paying farmers more for their crops, since they are the ones that determine the prices for farming in the country, our leaders fail to make sure that the reselling of crops to the public have adequate prices, which leaves the farming sector mostly in poverty.
Below we present the main problems that surround Indian farmers today within their work and in the management of their products:
- The small and fragmented land-holdings that farmers have are practically insignificant as they become economically unviable. An average size of holding is worse in densely populated and intensively cultivated states, with an average of 0.5 hectare. Because of this, having a total of 189.7 million hectares (1999-2000) means nothing in good production of crops. Inheritance laws cause subdivisions between the heirs, labour is wasted in moving seeds, manure, implements and cattle from one piece of land to the other, irrigation becomes more difficult with such small and fragmented fields, and fertile land is wasted in providing boundaries between these fields.
- Getting decent quality seeds is essential for good crop production. But with the unreasonable prices they carry, many farmers, especially small and marginal ones have difficulty in getting them. So, crop production suffers and there’s a lesser chance of income.
- Even today, there is not enough use of machines for farming operations, like ploughing, sowing irrigation, thinning and pruning, etc. Many farmers still work on manual hand, with simple and conventional tools which become a waste in human labour and achieve low yields per capita labour force. The need to mechanise agricultural operations is great, but still difficult for farmers to adapt to when they’re trapped by low income and debt.
- The management for agricultural marketing is unfair. It gives practically no advantage to the farmers who depend on local traders and middlemen for the distribution of their produce, which is sold at incredibly cheap prices. Under distress, farmers are forced to sell their crops this way, and can even sell their produce to the money lenders from whom they normally borrow money from to ease their debts.
- A lack of proper transport in the rural areas where most of these farmlands are held at prevent farmers from taking their produce to sell, especially when some roads can become useless for cart transport in harsh weather.
- The farmer’s capital is kept in his lands and stocks, which obliges him/her to borrow money to keep moving his agricultural production. And since the main suppliers are the money-lenders, traders and commission agents who charge high interest rates, they purchase the produce at low prices and keep agricultural capital scarce.
Agriculture is what maintains this country at ease with its needs, and yet it is one of the poorest sectors it has. It has such low income that farmers, in desperation to keep themselves afloat from debts, commit suicide at alarming rates. Measures by the government have been employed, but the effectiveness in changing the way farmers are provided for and the income they receive is still a distant goal unless more drastic measures are taken, better and trustworthy capital is provided, aid is given to them, and their produce is sold at good marketable prices that can benefit their wellbeing.