Societal Analysis

Farmer Distress - Nov 2023

India has always been a village society and farming economy. But the first serious debate and discussion on the agrarian question took place sometime around 1965, after a major shortage in food production. Fresh policies Vidhānālu were made and food production multiplied 3.7 times. The population grew by only 2.5 times. As a result, there has been food security ever since. Today, we have about 45% surplus food per person in India.

But even today, the people whose labour has made us a food-surplus country struggle to meet their daily needs. The vast majority have never known any financial security Ārthika bhadrata. Many of them go to bed hungry on most nights. The farmer family is helpless, impoverished, and getting poorer every year.

The all India average of landholding is 2.7 acres. 86% of them are small and marginal holdings.

In the 1980s, a farm family's average income was 34% of a non-farm family. They earn one-third what a family earns in a town or city. Today, it has dropped even lower to just 25%. — i.e. just one-quarter. A farm family earns an average of just ₹ 22,604 a year from an acre of irrigated land. From an acre of rain-fed land their income is ₹ 14,140 per year.

Our farm and off-farm activities absorb 64% of our rural work force. Even in 2011-12, its productivity was low compared to that of non-farm labour: Worker productivity Utpādakata in the agriculture sector was ₹ 62,235. Worker productivity Utpādakata in the non-farm sector was almost 3 times at ₹ 1,71,587.

Between 2004-2005 and 2011-2012, about 3 crore workers left agriculture. The number of actual cultivators also declined by 2 crores. These 5 crore people ended up at construction sites, or as untrained cheap security guards in the apartment complexes of our cities.

But our economic thinking Ārthika Ālōcana is poor and without imagination Ūha lēkuṇḍā. Our pseudo intellectuals Nakilī mēdhāvulu are lazy, self-satisfied Svīya santr̥pti, and as ignorant as they are arrogant Ahaṅkāraṁ. They know nothing about the innate understanding Sahajamaina avagāhana and innate knowledge Sahajamaina jñānaṁ of the population Janābhā. These false intellectuals who decide on our economic policies Ārthika vidhānālu receive wisdom from some bad western universities, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

Government after government, and the economic thinking Ārthika ālōcana in the country couldn't care less about farmers and the vast majority of the population. They always were and still are focused on investment flows, foreign capital, and capital markets. They only look at the Sensex, interest rates, trade liberalisation, fiscal deficits. They attend business round tables and get instructions from the rich capitalists. They advise to write off of corporate debts because they believe that only rich capitalists can produce wealth for the nation. They worry about IPOs and rating agencies' scores, and ease of doing business rankings. They talk about IT, e-commerce, and smart cities.

When it comes to agriculture, they refuse to understand that agriculture produce is not just a tradable commodity Vartakaṁ vastuvu. It is food. Land is not just a factor of production Utpatti kārakaṁ like any other. It is a live entity Jīvin̄cē jīvi and the farmer has an organic bond Sēndrīya bandhaṁ and a sentimental relationship Bhāvōdvēga sambandhaṁ with it.

In 2017, NITI Aayog released a document titled "Doubling Farmers' Income: Rationale, Strategy, Prospects and Action Plan". The document did not acknowledge farmer poverty and misery. It only suggested some market, technology Sāṅkētikata, and crop diversification Paṇṭala Vaividhyaṁ strategies and action plans.

Let us understanding how they came up with this "Doubling" number. If the number of cultivators keep coming down at the same rate as experienced during 2004-05 to 2011-12, it will reduce the number of farmers by 13.4% between 2015-2023. So, the available farm income will be distributed among 13.4% less farmers.

Their strategy seems more or less seems to be this: Let the number of cultivators dwindle so that it will be easier to double the farm income, as there will be a lesser number of cultivators to share the agriculture income.

I know that some people want ethnic cleansing Jāti prakṣāḷana. They want some communities to be killed or driven out of the country. But I never thought that this same mindset Ālōcanā vidhānantō will apply to farmers as an economic strategy. Perhaps not through violence, but through allowing poverty.

I never imagined they would consciously allow lakhs and crores of farmers to be driven away through poverty and pauperisation Pēdarikaṁ dvārā as a development strategy. Food is not a commodity where you can have more or less. Society cannot exist without food. Food production and agricultural income would keep growing. Their "Doubling Farm Income" plan was that this increase in food production Āhāra utpattilō perugudala and give the increased agricultural income to less and less farmers Takkuva mariyu takkuva Raitulu.

But how did it sound to you when the announcement was made in a grand Goppa Event? Did you not believe that farmers will be helped to somehow really double their income? Perhaps by reducing artificially high fertilizer costs, better procurement price, etc. Did you ever imagine that they were planning to allow 13.4% of farmers to get pauperised, and go to the cities every single year? Did you think this is the manner in which they were going to double farm income?

After this, came the Farm Laws. In June 2020, three Ordinances were passed. In September 2020, three Farm Laws were passed in just 10 days without any discussion with farmer organisations or in parliament.

These Farm Laws were exactly what NITI Aayog prescribed in 2017. That capitalist market forces Peṭṭubaḍidārī śaktulu, controlled by a few rich capitalists, will lead to efficiency Samarthata and increase in agricultural production. And those farmer families, who could deal vyavaharin̄caṇḍi with the rich capitalists, will benefit.

A farmer who cannot really sell his produce locally is shown the promise that he now has the choice and the opportunity to sell it anywhere in the country! The farmer who is unable to face a small local middleman is told that he can now negotiate with a giant corporation to get remunerative price. And he is also told that, impoverished as he is, he can take on the corporate giant in a legal battle if the corporate does not honour a contract.

Farmers presently sell their produce to local middle men who they know intimately. When they feel they are getting cheated too much, they argue and fight and resolve the price difference. After all, these local middle men are enterprising youth from their own villages, from the same castes and communities, and often their blood relatives. These local middle men take their produce to bigger licensed traders in the Mandis.

When the volumes are big, bigger farmers and even these local middle men take their produce to bigger licensed traders in the Mandis. There also, there are arguments and fights over pricing. But their heated bargaining is with known people who, at the end of a arguments, will together share a cup of chai. And the Mandi is, at least nominally, their own institution with all of them as shareholders and periodic election to Directors.

And the most important function of the Mandis is that this is where the government procures grains at a minimum support price. Farmers feared that by deregulating the system of government-run Mandis, government-guaranteed Minimum Support Price (MSP) will also disappear. The wholesale agriculture market will be opened up for big rich capitalists. Farmers would be at the mercy of big corporate players who could monopolise the market and dictate terms.

Telling impoverished, vulnerable small and marginal farmers that the open market was good for them did not work. They knew nothing about the capitalist way of trading in futures. They didn't know and didn't trust selling their produce on e-platforms to anyone, anywhere in the country.

Farmers began to protest. Their agitation was demonised and portrayed as "anti-national". But they refused to give up. In November 2021, the three Farm Laws were withdrawn.

But even after withdrawing the three Farm Laws, the pseudo economists Nakilī ārthikavēttalu call the agitation anti-national. They say that a desirable set of measures had to be sacrificed at the altar of irresponsible democracy Bādhyatārahita prajāsvāmyaṁ. The 3 laws are shown as well-intentioned, and a victim of mob politics rowdy gumpu rājakīyālu. There's a dark suggestion here that the democratic process is inimical Asamānamainadi to sound policy Dhvani vidhānaṁ.

The irony is that this is said by the same people who believe in Majoritarianism Bahuvacanaṁ.