“Happy the man, whose wish and care,
A few paternal acres bound,
Content to breathe his native air
In his own ground.”
— Alexander Pope
An Indian farmer is one of the most important member of the society. He is the provider of food to the people, to all practical purposes. A farmer’s life is simple. He goes to the fields early in the morning with his cattle when the rest of the world is sleeping comfortably in their warm beds. He rarely cares for the heat or the rains or the cold. He faces all the climatic hardships without any complaint. He continues to work through the day’s heat, sometimes with his entire family helping him. It is only at noon that he thinks of taking a few minutes off to eat his meagre lunch and rest for a while under the cool shade of a tree.
But soon he gets back to his hard labour and toil. Sometimes he works late, otherwise he usually returns to his humble hut at dusk to his family where his loving children and wife eagerly await his return. After washing and playing with his children, he finally lies down in his cot to rest for a while till dinner is served. After having food with his family, he goes to the village chowpal to entertain himself and socialise. This is his time for recreation after a long day’s hard work. After spending an hour or two with his friends, talking and gossiping, he comes back home to sleep under the star studded sky.
The real India resides in its villages. About 70% of India’s population lives in rural areas and earns its livelihood there. The major occupation of these people is agriculture. Thus, Indian economy is totally an agrarian one. However much industrialised India may become, farmers will remain an integral part of the economy, contributing to 26% of national GDP.
Farmers fulfill our food requirements and also produce raw materials like cotton, jute, sugar, oilseeds etc., for the industries. Farmers are also engaged in several agro based activities. Farmers contribute to foreign exchange, by producing various products for export such as, tea, coffee, sugar, tobacco, spices etc. It’s been due to their sheer hard work that farm productivity of India has increased manifold over the years.
However, agriculture in India is dependent solely upon rains. As soon as the monsoon season starts, the expectant eyes of the farmer keeps slipping to the horizon to spot the first rain clouds darkening the sky. If the rain fails, then the crops fail too. Thus, our hard working farmer and his fate is always at the mercy of the quality and quantity of rains. Sometimes, droughts and famines play havoc in his already tough life and many a times it is the floods that wash away his toils.
This is not all. Diseases, sorrows, sufferings, hunger and death are his regular visitors. He often falls ill and dies uncared for. If not him, it is sometimes his child, who is already suffering from malnutrition, surrenders to death. City-dwellers cannot even imagine the hardships of a poor farmer. Thus, it is a matter of grave concern for all of us. The food provider of our nation, the true son of the soil who feeds millions of hungry people by his endless efforts, himself remains hungry and dies uncared for.
Governments do not adequately support them so that they can buy fertilisers, pesticides and other technologies. Most of the agricultural land is diverted for commercial uses. Special Economic Zones (SEZs) do not support farmers, as subsidised land, cheaper credit and excise duty relief is instead made available to industries.
The financial condition of Indian farmers is miserable. The monthly income of a farming household is not more than that earned by domestic helpers in metro cities or daily wage labourers. Drowned in heavy debts, farmers commit suicide. Who doesn’t know about the large number of suicides committed by the farmers in Vidarbha, films like ‘Kisan’ and ‘Peepli Live’ brought this serious issue into limelight. If economic progress is to be accelerated, interests of farmers can’t be neglected. Government introduced the Agricultural Debt Waiver and Debt Relief Scheme in 2008. Kisan Credit Card was also a part of this scheme. In 2013, Government launched the Diversify Income Sources Package, which aimed to generate income sources for farmers from allied sectors.
It’s high time that the government stops playing the vote-bank game and works out some substantial measures and reforms to improve the living as well as working conditions of the farmers of our country. We have to work unitedly for the upliftment of our farmers. We need to train our farmers in scientific farming and the modern methods of irrigation. We also need to educate the children of our farmers, provide better healthcare, sanitation, clean drinking water and power supply so that their socio-economic conditions can be improved for better.
The government has been trying to do a lot and a lot has been accomplished, yet much needs to be done. We have to make sure that the farmers come out of the clutches of poverty and break free from the chains of debt and illiteracy, so that the hands that feed millions do not go without food. Farmers should also get a monthly take home package that will take care of their families and the surplus can be used for next crop sowing. They must also be awarded pensions, annual increments, medical allowances and quick financial loans. By providing them with proper incentives, good quality seeds, irrigation facilities, fertilisers, pesticides and subsidies, we can ensure that farmers of India flourish.