Agriculture in India is undergoing a structural change leading to a crisis situation. The rate of growth of agricultural output is gradually declining in the recent years. The relative contribution of agriculture to the GDP has been declining over time steadily. The performance of agriculture by crop categories also clearly indicates the slowing down process of agriculture in India.
The ongoing crisis in agriculture received little attention during election rallies. Even in drought-hit region of Latur in Maharashtra, there was hardly any mention of humanitarian crisis caused by drought. Parts of Gujarat, Karnataka, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan are also reeling under drought due to deficient rainfall.
The current agrarian crisis in India is a product of two factors: failure to recognise when the Green Revolution started giving diminishing returns and taking steps to come up with alternatives; and the economic impact of subsidies.
Farmers continue to struggle with the perennial problems of the agriculture sector, with farmer suicides continuing in part of the country, especially in the areas affected by drought, they say. Opposition parties also failed to effectively highlight these issues during the polls, which in part has led to their decimation, they claim.
Farmer leaders fear agrarian crisis issue may get pushed to the side on the government’s priorities, as the concerns including farmer suicides that they had raised during elections seem to have had little impact on the way people voted.
The challenge in agriculture is a problem of plenty – more production, less price. Price, pricing, procurement and logistic are areas of focus for the government to steer agriculture out of distress. Additionally, scarcity of resources in the face of 70 per cent of over Rs 12 lakh crore of institutional credit flowing into just eight states, leaving farmers in eastern, central and southern states at the mercy of non-institutional creditors, mostly money-lenders.
It is alarming that India is moving towards a point of no return, from being a self-reliant nation of food surplus to a net importer of food. All these trends indicate that the agricultural sector in India is facing a crisis today. It is argued that the root cause of the crisis was that agriculture is no more profitable economic activity when compared to other enterprises. It means that the income derived from these activities is not sufficient enough to meet the expenditure of the cultivators.
It is high time the new government brought agriculture marketing to the concurrent list to bring real reform to agriculture markets. Simultaneously, investment in storage and assaying in mandis needs to be accorded highest priority so that the idea of a national agriculture market can actually succeed.
Even though farmers do their best to generate their income and earn their livelihoods, we need to reflect on agricultural problems and solutions. Responsible consumption of resources is among one of the most important sustainable development goals. Hence, we should make sure that the problems of the agriculture sector are eradicated so that the lives of farmers are not hampered. Working conditions of farmers should also be improved.
As an effort towards this direction, the government should augment its investment and expenditure in the farm sector. Investment in agriculture and its allied sectors, including irrigation, transport, communication, rural market, rural infrastructure and farm research, should be drastically increased, and the government should aim at integrated development of rural areas.