Saturday, November 25, 2006

Vidarbha Agrarian Crisis

We have all been hearing about the agrarian crisis in Vidarbha. As noted earlier on 10.11.2006 the PM was forced to announce a relief package worth Rs. 3,750 crore for 6 of the 11 districts comprising the region.

What matters now is that a survey conducted by the Maharashtra government has revealed that more than 75% of all farm households in these districts are still in distress. It was a thorough door-to-door survey conducted in all these districts. It found that the major sources of misery were: debt and crop loss or crop failure. The result of this crisis apart from suicides being committed by the farmers include:

  1. Farmers are not even in a position to afford farm inputs; and
  2. People are not in a position to afford performing marriages of their daughters

The rate at which farmers are committing suicides is not abating at all with about 100 suicides per month being reported. Because of the claims and counterclaims about the figures, the courts also had to intervene and direct the government to display data about suicides on a website.

The plight of those who received the relief package:

The Rs. 3,750 cr aid package given for Vidarbha farmers is not helping them. The package includes Rs. 50 lk each to be made available for the six district collectors, a Rs. 712 cr interest waiver and Rs. 1300 cr for loan restructuring. The balance was mainly for long term planning such as irrigation and seed replacement.

The Rs. 712 cr and Rs. 1300 cr components have been more beneficial for the district cooperative banks than for farmers as it cleaned up their books of accounts.

As part of the relief package farmers were given quality cows. Even at the time it was conceived, the Planning Commission had raised serious objections. But in spite of that it was proceeded with. Where water and fodder are not available due to draught, what was the use in giving cows? That too Jersey cows which have huge appetite. They need at least 5 kg of oilcake a day, need green fodder which is scarce and also need a day’s labour to look after them. For a farmer who is already under distress, finding that much food for the cow is proving to be a herculian task. While the costs are working out to be about Rs. 85 to Rs. 150 a day, it yields only a revenue from anywhere between Rs. 36 and Rs. 70 depending on various factors. There is also a peculiar difficulty in finding fodder. The livestock disaster began with the decline in food crop in the region. Jowar is where the fodder comes from. Up to 30% of the land in some districts was once under Jowar. Today it is less than 5%. Less fodder implies less cows, less milk. It means less manure too, which affects soil fertility. So milk production collapsed in the region some years ago.

While it is a correct approach in infusing funds into long term solutions, the choice of solution for alleviating the crisis in the shorter term seems to have been a failure. Had the government promoted the growth of Jowar instead of giving cows to the farmers, it would have given better results. The decision to give quality cows to poor farmers has only harmed the beneficiaries.

1 Comment:

Anonymous said...

very good artical.