Monday, April 15, 2024
HomeOPEDFarming is the Backbone of our Economy

Farming is the Backbone of our Economy

In 1908, in “Hind Swaraj,” Gandhi envisioned farmers as a self-sufficient community and labeled them as traditional practitioners of non-violent resistance

Farmers contribute significantly to India’s economy, but today, nobody wants to become a farmer

Niraj Krishna

Who is a farmer? The government in December 2019 could not answer this question in the Rajya Sabha and instead referred to agriculture as a state matter. According to the National Farmer Policy of 2007, the first name on the list of farmers in this particular category belongs to tribal farmers. The government has not created any new definition for this but has accepted an existing official and extensive definition. However, now the dilemma is that the government does not currently know how many farmers there are in the country apart from those who have land rights for farming, including landless and other categories.

The term “farmer” is used with different meanings by various groups of people worldwide. Defining it is truly difficult. A farmer is a person, male or female, who has a direct and special relationship with the land and nature through the cultivation of food and/or other agricultural products. Farmers work on the land themselves and are dependent on both family labor and other small-scale organized labor. Farmers are traditionally connected to their local communities, and they pay attention to local landscapes and agricultural ecosystems. The term “farmer” can apply to anyone engaged in agriculture, animal husbandry, livestock farming, agricultural handicrafts, or related businesses in rural areas. It also includes indigenous people working on the land.

In March 2020, in response to a question in the Lok Sabha, the government clearly stated in its written reply that there had been no specific survey or census conducted to determine the exact number of landless farmers in the country. Only data on fully leased plots is available. According to the 2015 Agricultural Census, there are 531,285 plots in the country, excluding figures for Arunachal Pradesh, Chandigarh, Haryana, Daman and Diu, Delhi, Lakshadweep, Meghalaya, and Mizoram.

Farmers contribute significantly to India’s economy, but today, nobody wants to become a farmer. Everyone is moving towards IT companies and towards big cities. We have been hearing and reading since childhood, “Be proud that India is an agrarian country.” This phrase has been printed and repeated millions of times by paid media to hide India’s weakness. The real question should have been, “Why is India an agrarian country?”

If we honestly ask ourselves this question, we will find only one answer or cause: “Because there are no industrial factories, companies, etc., in India, people are forced to farm. If they get better opportunities, 90% of people will quit farming.” Looking at the figures, in America, 1.7%; in Britain, 1.1%; in China, 17.5%; in India, 42.7%; in Bhutan, 56.8%; in Pakistan, 42%; in Tanzania, 66%; in Zimbabwe, 68.5%; in Congo, 81%; and in Burundi (the poorest country), 91% of the population is engaged in agricultural work.

Very few people in developed countries depend on agriculture, while all poor countries are agrarian countries. The real curse is that “the majority of India’s population is forced to do agricultural work.” But the paid media has glorified this curse or weakness by associating it with pride, framing the main question, “Why is India an agrarian country?” Because the answer to this question is, “Engineering and manufacturing are weak in India; there are no factories, so most people do farming.”

In Indian culture, festivals, customs, traditions, rituals, and ceremonies are all connected to agriculture. Farming was the fundamental basis of India’s self-reliance, but the British began the zamindari system to destroy India’s economy by altering land ownership. This resulted in the continuous impoverishment of actual farmers. The self-reliance of the country in agriculture was destroyed.

We have heard about Israel. Apart from their great defense system and Mossad, they are also known for their agricultural techniques. Therefore, Israel is a country in the Middle East where more than half of the land is desert, and the remaining land is not supported by water resources, with only 20% of the land being naturally arable. Yet, Israel produces 95% of its food on its own.

Despite 60% of India’s land being cultivable and 35% being irrigated naturally, Indian farmers have been suffering. Despite being the 7th largest country in terms of land area, India ranks 150th, whereas Israel ranks much lower. Yet, our farmers are suffering because agricultural reform in India is only a small part of governmental policies. Nobody truly cares about the farmers. They believe that “loan waivers” are the solution to all farmer problems.

In 1908, in “Hind Swaraj,” Gandhi envisioned farmers as a self-sufficient community and labeled them as traditional practitioners of non-violent resistance. According to him, the meaning of India does not lie in a handful of rulers but in the millions of farmers who sustain kings and others. Farmers have never wielded swords, nor will they ever. They do not know how to wield swords, nor do they fear anyone else’s swords. They have made death their constant companion, so they have let go of fear and, therefore, everyone else’s fear as well.

Before and after independence, despite a long period passing, there was only a marginal difference in the condition of Indian farmers. The prosperity of farmers can be counted on fingers. After gaining independence, with the creation of new land improvement laws in almost all states, a new class of landowners emerged among farmers.

In 1950, during the first national convention of the All India Kisan Sabha, in his presidential speech, Lohia outlined the following goals for the farmer movement in the new environment: immediate government allocation of land through government orders to the landless, creation of land armies for reclaimed land, industrialization through small machines, land redistribution, and allocation of 20 acres of land and a village to each family. Agricultural and industrial goods should be priced proportionately.

Today, even though agriculture contributes approximately 14% to the total economy, it still provides employment to 60% of the poor. But agriculture and farmers in India have not received as much importance in the economy as they should have. Sixty percent of agriculture in India depends on rain. Only 40% of agricultural land has irrigation facilities. Demand for fair prices for crops has been raised for a long time. Farmers should get the right price for their produce. The minimum support price is not determined for fruits and seasonal vegetables. Even crops with MSP are not accessible to farmers.

How many people know or have been informed by the government system that “Women Farmers Day” is celebrated in the country on October 15th? But when women farmers will receive recognition at the societal level is unknown. While men working on the same field are called farmers, the four women working on the same field are called laborers, not farmers. According to the International Food Institute, if women are given equal opportunities as men in agriculture, they can increase production by 20 to 30 percent.

In the modern era, the importance of farmers is being understood worldwide. The contribution of farmers is being appreciated for every grain of food. Farmers have become familiar with their rights and are advocating for them. The government is making important decisions in the interest of farmers. Farmers are being encouraged to step forward, but the biggest question is who they should listen to. Although this is not a contentious issue, whenever the question of farmers’ rights arises, it is the first question that comes to everyone’s mind: who is a farmer?

In the democratic heritage of this country, the progressive humanitarian slogan “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan” has been established. But today, the unfortunate reality is that farmers, who raise their voices for their rights, are facing the insensitive, oppressive actions of the government.

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