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How government policies since economic liberalization have left agricultural sector into dismay.

The whole system is created to serve the few on the expense of millions.

Since the Indian economic liberalization in 1991, the neglect of agriculture has become comparatively pronounce and farmers who constitute more than 50% of the population have attracted a marginal support and assistance. 1990s was a decade when Indian market was widely opened for international players. Since then it has become a norm that whoever comes in government pays much attention to other areas of economy rather than agriculture. The whole system is created to serve the few on the expense of millions.

Indian agricultural sector grew at steady rate of 4.1% in the 11th (2007-12) Plan period, on the other hand Indian industrial grew at a handsome rate of 8.1%. During this period, INR 1 lakh Cr was allocated to the agricultural sector. So, the country’s agricultural sector which employs 60% of the population received roughly INR 333.33 per farmer for a year. Even this much amount, would have been received by the end receivers is a big doubt given the prevalence of rampant corruption in Indian system.

In the 12th year plan, Indian agricultural sector received INR 1.5 Lakh Cr. If we compare it with tax exemptions showered on the industry in 2014-15 alone which is INR 5.73 lakh Cr – clearly indicates where the government’s priority lies. It seems that what Gandhi had visions for Indian villages have been left, now only in books. India needs a coherent and inclusive policy where agriculture and industry should grow together.

Indian Farmer’s Crisis

According to a UN report, 66% of rural labourers are dependent on agriculture for their livelihood. The magic of Green Revolution what some Indian states (Punjab, Haryana and Western UP) enjoyed in 1970s started to fade from 1990s, the overuse of fertilizers and chemicals caused the soil to become infertile along with irrigation problem Indian farming sector is more vulnerable than before. Even previous Indian PM Mr. Singh accepted that “Farming is increasingly becoming an unviable activity”.

What is the adversarial effect of economic liberalization on farmers?

  • After nearly 25 years of economic reforms have given access to expensive biotechnology. The farmers have access to hybrid seeds, effective pesticides and chemicals etc.
  • These reforms have not led up to better mechanism of crop insurance, land irrigation and bank loans.
  • The economic reforms in 1990s opened Indian farmers to global competition, such as European Union who receive 40% of the total EU budget, USA and Britain also receive $30 billion as farm subsidies. Such foreign subsidies have driven down the prices of crops in the global market and subsequent Indian governments have failed to provide support to Indian farmers in the international arena. For instance, once the cotton was one of the highest yielding commercial crop has now become a burden on farmers.

The increasing number of Farmers committing suicides

  • A crop failure, an unexpected illness and marriage of a daughter – these are the most important task of a farmer’s life. But these simple wishes of a farmer has become perilous task for them in Indian economy.
  • Suicide has been spreading like an epidemic among distraught farmers. For example, NCRB reported that there was 2, 56,913 farmers committed suicide between 1995 and 2010, 50000 farmers killed themselves alone in Maharashtra. Close to 70% of all the suicides have occurred in five economically better off states: Maharashtra, Karnataka, A.P., Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
  • Maximum number of suicides is happening in cotton producing states.
  • Not able to pay the debts have been the main reason for farmers committing suicides.

Neoliberal economic reforms induced patterns of growth have resulted in disparity between agricultural and non-agricultural growth, and coupled with rising prices and crop prices not keeping pace with international market, agriculture is not anymore a profession of choice. The policymakers have to provide a mechanism where a farmer can live with dignity. The epidemic of farmer’s suicide can be stopped only if government intervenes in this dying industry with full force.

As the present government is focusing on creating a conducive atmosphere for industrial growth, farming sector also requires the same amount of attention. India needs industrial growth, digitalization and smart cities but at the same time India needs ‘smart villages’ also. The government’s tiny funding of INR 5000 Cr announced this year won’t serve the purpose. The government should provide subsidies as developed countries are providing in order to enable the farmers to compete at international market.

In conclusion, as more news of human misery unravels, it would be tragic for the country if Modi government fails to broaden its policy and learn to erase the previous policies which didn’t work in order to add new ones which promises better support for farmers.

As it is rightly said that “a farmer works so the world can eat”.

Nachiket Nishant loves to write on issues related to politics and international affairs. He has done his masters in international relations. Currently, he is a lead policy researcher at The Indian Iris.


Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of The Indian Iris and The Indian Iris does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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