Non-farm jobs and social mores hold India’s key to farm reforms

News: Recently, government repealed three farm laws.

Agri reforms in India are necessary to unlock the true potential of agriculture and the agro-processing industry, and for the efficient allocation of private and government resources.

However, the success of any attempt to reform the agriculture sector in India would depend to a large extent on the state of its economy’s non-farm sectors, as well as societal culture.

Further, other preconditions for successful farm reforms, such as improved irrigation and an agriculture insurance market that functions better, are also needed.

What has been the impact of High agri income in Punjab and Haryana?

Decline in employment of adults and women: Data shows that, in Punjab and Haryana, due to high agricultural incomes, there is a drastic decline in agricultural employment among adults and women.

– Because of high agricultural incomes, young men (aged 20-29 years) could afford to remain unemployed or in education in Punjab and Haryana.

– Similarly, as per data, the number of women employed in agriculture have declined over the years. Meanwhile, there has been no increase in women participation in non-farm work. This means with high agri incomes, more women have retreated to their homes, i.e. they are no longer working.

Why decent employment opportunities in non-farm sector are necessary for successful Agri reforms?

Now, in the above context, if price guarantees for rice and wheat are rolled back, this would make a price decline of rice and wheat inevitable due to their excess supply in the market. If this were to happen, farmers would be unable to sustain their current income levels and lifestyle.

This will force farmers in these states to find alternative sources of income that includes, women and younger adults in farmer families taking up paid work.

But with decline of non-farm sectors, avenue to absorb youth is very less. Further, women returning to paid work will be seen as a decrease in societal status.

This is why rich farmers in Haryana and Punjab are forced to maintain the status quo with respect to agri reforms.

Hence, reviving high-paying jobs in non-farm sectors becomes an important precondition for Agri reforms in India.

Source: This post is based on the article “Non-farm jobs and social mores hold India’s key to farm reforms” published in Live mint on 23rd November 2021.

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