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Fields of despair

Fields of despair



“Bharat vs India”, a phrase coined by Charan Singh to describe the conflict between villages and cities, remains relevant. This is evident from the Kisan Sansad (farmers’ parliament) that met in Delhi last month. More than 40,000 peasants belonging to 180 farmers’ organisations came together to form the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC).

Impact of 1991 reforms:

  • Rural India has lagged behind the cities since the 1991 economic reforms. According to the National Sample Survey, the average Monthly Per Capita Expenditure (MPCE) in 1993-94 was Rs 281 in rural India and Rs 458 in urban India.
  •  It rose to Rs 772 (up 174 per cent) and Rs 1,472 (up 221 per cent) for rural and urban India respectively in 2007-08, which means that the gap between rural and urban jumped from 63 to 91 percentage points.
  • The gap diminished somewhat between 2007-08 and 2011-12, with rural MPCE reaching Rs 1,430 (up 85 per cent) as an average and the urban rising to 2,630 (up 79 per cent), but it remained more than 20 percentage points higher than what it was in 1993-94 at 84 percentage points.

The slow growth of agriculture over the last decade:

  •  Between the years 2005-06 and 2011-12, the average annual growth rate of industry at constant 2004-05 prices has been 7.5 per cent, while services grew at an ever-quicker pace, 9.95 per cent. However, agriculture lagged behind at 3.8 per cent.
  • In the following three years, 2012-2015, the average agricultural GDP growth rate was 1.7 per cent. In 2014-15, the growth rate of agriculture was negative at – 0.2 per cent.
  •  It was only 1.1 per cent in 2015-16 and, due to a good monsoon, about 4 per cent in 2016-17, the growth rate the five-year plan considered as necessary to ensure food security.

The factors which are responsible for the slow growth:

  • The size of holdings has shrunk over the years: The average land owned by peasants fell from 0.725 ha to 0.592 ha between 2002-03 and 2012-13. As a result, the proportion of those owning less than one hectare increased from 79.7 per cent to 82.8 per cent. Since a farm household needs at least 1 hectare of land to make ends meet, over half of the farmers are in debt: The average loan amount for a farm household in India today is Rs 47,000.
  • Irrigation has stagnated with less than half of Indian farmland irrigated, partly because of the groundwater crisis: Water tables fell by 65 per cent in 10 years.
  • Peasants suffer from one obsession of the government: The price of food. To neutralise any risk of inflation on that front, the growth rate of rural wages has been limited — in 2015, it was the lowest in 10 years (and lower than the inflation rate). That was related to the squeezing of the MGNREGA programme, which was blamed for rising rural wages.

Source: The Indian express