- 6th March, 2018: On 6th March, 2018, around 40,000 farmers in and around Maharashtra marched to Mumbai from Nasik.
- 12th March, 2018: The march ended at March 12th at the Maharashtra Vidhan Sabha.
- Members of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), the farmers’ wing of Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM), along with other farmers’ unions are the ones who have held the protest march.
What are the two-fold reasons for which the protest march had been conducted?
The two-fold reasons which the protest march had been conducted are as follows:
Unpredictable weather and poor rainfall:
- Crops have been destroyed on a large scale due to unpredictable weather and poor rainfall.
- Note: The Economic Survey of Maharashtra has projected a negative agriculture growth at 8.3 per cent for financial year 2017-18 on account of decreased production of food-grains, pulses and cotton crops.
Farm loan waiver:
- The government had in 2017, announced a farm loan waiver worth Rs 30,000 crore to alleviate agrarian distress and deter farmer suicides.
- But the loan waiver scheme was not quite implemented properly.
- Besides it did not benefit many of the small and marginal farmers who usually do not rely upon institutional credit.
What were the demands of the farmers for which the protest march had been conducted?
The demands of the farmers which the protest march had been conducted are as follows:
- A key demand of the farmers was the waiving of farm loans because since its implementation, only one-third of farmers in the state had been given waivers.
- Secondly, the marchers also sought adequate compensation for failed crops.
- Thirdly, were angry about forcible land acquisitions, and sought the immediate implementation of the Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations of fair and remunerative prices.
- Fourthly, they demanded individual and community land rights for forest dwellers.
Has the State government accepted these demands?
Yes, the State government accepted most of their major demands. They are as follows:
- The State government expanded the list of those eligible for the farm-loan waiver announced in 2017 and announced Rs 34,022 crore loan waiver scheme for 89 lakh farmers.
- It also increased pensions to agricultural workers from Rs 500 to Rs 1,000 per month and transfer of land titles under the Forest Rights Act.
- Furthermore, the government would set up a committee to hand over ownership of land, currently notified as forests, to Adivasi farmers tilling them.
What are the manifold reasons of India’s agrarian crisis? (Updated)
The manifold reasons of India’s agrarian crisis are as follows:
Intense pressure of population on land:
- The fundamental root of the agrarian crisis, particularly in Maharashtra, is the intense pressure of population on land.
- As per the state’s own 2017-18 Economic Survey, over 80% of Maharashtra’s 13 million farmers work on small and marginal farms, meaning they have landholdings of less than one hectare.
Shortage of cash and credit:
- The shortage of cash and credit is another major issue in rural households.
- Landless or marginal farmers lack the resources to either buy or lease more land or invest in farm infrastructure such as irrigation, power and farm machinery.
- Note: Rural households earn Rs3, 000 (US$46) a month by farming.
- Whereas, the Economic Survey conducted by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) estimates the minimum cost of living for the average Indian farm household at Rs6, 426 per month.
- NSSO data also reveals that a farm household needs to have at least one hectare of land to make ends meet every month.
- A farmer is constantly exposed to multiple risks and the major risk is the weather.
- In Maharashtra, over 80% of farmers are dependent on the rains and a weak monsoon or even a delayed monsoon means a significant loss of output.
Pests and plant diseases:
- Among multiple risks, another risk is from pests and plant diseases.
- Most districts in Maharashtra have seen 30-70% devastation of cotton crops due to pink worm attacks this year, despite having using genetically modified BT cotton seeds for over 15 years.
- The third risk is that of price.
- Over 94% farmers have no other option but to sell their produce locally for less than the MSP.
- The farmers usually get as little as 25% of the price that consumers finally pay.
What are the recent initiatives taken by the government of India for the agrarian sector of the country? (Updated)
The recent initiatives taken by the government of India for the agrarian sector of the country are as follows:
Doubling Farmers’ Income by 2022:
- Significant steps have been taken to attain Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of “Doubling Farmers’ Income by 2022”.
- In a coordinated effort, agriculture universities and ICAR institutes along with various state and central agencies have developed ‘Strategy Document on Doubling Farmers’ Income by 2022 for different States.
Integrated Farming System (IFS) models:
- Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has developed 45 Integrated Farming System (IFS) models.
- It will help small and marginal farmers to tide over the problems associated with climate change.
Other schemes and programs by ICAR:
- ICAR has also developed 623 certified District Level contingency schemes and organized skill development programs for 40.9 lakh farmers.
- In order to assist the Government’s “Soil Health Card” initiative, minilabs were developed for soil testing.
- ICAR through its Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVKs) spread across the country have displayed climate friendly techniques in 29 States.
- ICAR has also developed 42 organic farming techniques, which were tested and are being further improved.
- The government, for the benefit of farmers, has initiated programs like agriculture extension, Sankalp Se Siddhi, ‘Mera Gaon Mera Gaurav, infrastructure development, agriculture education, agricultural research, international cooperation, technology transfer, ‘Krishi Unnati Mela’, etc.
Some related and important facts:
About Swaminathan Commission:
- The government of India constituted the National Commission on Farmers (NCF) on November 18, 2004 which was chaired by Professor M.S. Swaminathan.
- It submitted five reports to the government.
- The first was submitted in December 2004 and the fifth and final report was submitted on October 4, 2006.
- The reports had suggestions for “faster and more inclusive growth” for farmers as was envisaged in the Planning Commission’s Approach to 11th Five Year Plan.
- The fifth report was the most crucial as it contained suggestions for inclusive growth of farmers and agriculture sector.
- NCF’s Swaminathan Commission Report aimed at working out a system for food and nutrition security, sustainability in the farming system, enhancing quality and cost competitiveness of farm commodities and also to recommend measures for credit and other marketing related steps.
- Dr Swaminathan had requested the government to implement the recommendations given in the report so that it could provide minimum support price for grains, safeguard the interest of small farmers and addressing the issue of increasing risk overtaking agriculture as a profession.
About Union budget 2018: allocation for agriculture:
- The income of farmers will be doubled by 2020, as agriculture will be projected as an enterprise.
- The Minimum Support Price (MSP) for Kharif crops will be 1.5 times the cost of production of the same.
- If the crops are priced lower than the Minimum Support Price, then the government will ensure that the farmers do not suffer a loss. They will be provided the necessary MSP or an appropriate price.
- The government will set up regulations to make sure that 470 Agricultural Produce Market Committees are created and connected to the electronic platform of the National Agricultural Market (eNAM).
- The government is also looking at working with NITI Aayog to set up an optimal farm price realisation system. Additionally, 22,000 new gramin agri centres (GRAMS) will be set up to assist farmers in selling their produce directly.
- Rs.2,000 crore will be set aside for the realisation of an agricultural market fund.
- The government has also doubled the allocation into the food processing sector that is currently growing at the rate of 8% annually. This year, the allocation will be Rs.1,400 crore.
- Rs.500 crore has been set aside for Operation Green.
- The Finance Minister also revealed that state-of-the-art facilities will be established in 42 food parks for agricultural exports.
- The Finance Minister proposed to enable farmers in the fisheries and animal husbandry segments to benefit from Kisan credit cards. Rs.10,000 crore will be allocated for the same.
- The government is looking to take measures to fight pollution due to crop burning and usage of firewood for cooking.
- The Krishi Sinchayi Yojana will now include a ground water irrigation scheme that will offer irrigation facilities to regions that do not receive water supply for agriculture.
- The government will also be taking several measures to improve warehousing for agriculture.
- There will be liberalisation in agri exports, benefitting the sector of pulses.
About Krishi Vigyan Kendras:
- KVK, is an integral part of the National Agricultural Research System (NARS).
- It aims at assessment of location specific technology modules in agriculture and allied enterprises, through technology assessment, refinement and demonstrations.
- The first Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVK) was established in 1974 at Puducherry.
- The number of KVKs has risen to 645 and 106 more KVKs are to be established in the newly created districts and some larger districts.
- The KVK scheme is 100% financed by Govt. of India and the KVKs are sanctioned to Agricultural Universities, ICAR institutes, related Government Departments and Non Government Organizations (NGOs) working in Agriculture.