By occupation farmer is the one who is connected with earth more than anyone else. Why a farmer is not honored, he is becoming more and more vulnerable? Over a period, this sector turned from sustainable agriculture to exploitative agriculture. The new practices are degrading the very resources which sustained farming. The soil degradation, water pollution, groundwater depletion, pesticide residues in the produce, greenhouse gasses release, etc., are some of the impacts. The scientific community and the policy makers introducing GMOs, chemical-based agriculture, etc., are also responsible for this pathetic situation.
If the budget component allocated to the farmers and agriculture sector increases every year means, we have not achieved much. If the annual budget allocation to the farm sector decreases, it means we are working and developing this sector. It is like the number of pills taken by a patient continues or increases; it does not mean that the patient is becoming healthy.
In the history, the farmers paid the taxes and contributed to the economy of the nations. Earliest civilizations and cultures in parts of the world flourished. The richest kings, kingdoms, monuments existed because of farmers’ contributions. Today our policies, technologies, and other factors made the farmer no less than a beggar for everything – seeds, fertilizers, support prices, loans, insurance, power, rains (cloud seeding), water for irrigation, etc. There is a need for serious thought and strategy for the sustainability of farming and farmers’ livelihood.
We love farmers and their well-being because they provide food, fodder, fiber, fuel and much more. Why we are not happy when the prices of their produce go up? There was jokes and anger when the price of onions increased. No one was bothered when the farmers had been at a loss many times, and even paying to dump the produce as garbage. I once dumped flowers as trash in a dustbin, cultivated on our Farm as the price was so low. In general, farmer rarely gets profits that he deserves for the efforts. Farmers feel sorry when the whole system conspires to bring down the prices when they rarely get a good price. On the whole, it is common sense to understand that the prices go high for various reasons such as a particular crop production were not high due to crop failure. In such a case, the farmer would get compensated through an increase in price and so the dependent people.
First of all, every farmer deserves the right price for the produce. Paying the right price means we are not exploiting a farmer and also giving due respect to the farmer and the agriculture sector. A farmer lives happily with honor and dignity only when they could sell the produce at a right price with some profit, after deducting expenses on the inputs, labor, processing, etc.
The petrol and gold price also comes down, but not the water price. In the packaged water business, no one ever says how the price of a water bottle reduced. Even during the rainy season, the price of water is the same. There was never an offer like one bottle free for every bottle purchase; 20% extra water for the same price; or free gifts on purchase of a water bottle. When water is a valuable input for agriculture, why the produce of the farmer should be undervalued. The state ensures the minimum wages for people working in all sectors, how come the state has never protected the minimum wages of farmers, by ensuring the minimum support to the farmers. Where are the labor inspectors in agriculture sector.
In the history, farmers were givers, i.e., taxpayers and contributed to the GDP of the nation. But they are now at the receiving end. Over the last 50 years, the pride of the farmers was belittled by the systems. Everyone around the farmer is getting benefited through exploitation but not the real farmer. The government officials, university professors, research scientists, and civil society representatives are happy with their profession. There are multinational companies benefited by selling seeds, pesticides, fertilizers, technologies, processing goods and selling the produce. The brokers and other middlemen are also becoming rich. The debt-ridden farmers are becoming poorer, and few are also committing suicides. The dependent secondary stakeholders are not supporting the farmers. Whenever there is a sudden increase in prices, in the interest of destitute people, it is the discretion of the government to subsidize the goods.
In the past, there was pride to say “I am a farmer,” because farmers rarely depended on the government systems. Farmer was independent before India got independence, but after independence farmer has become dependent. Our system failed in promoting Gram Swaraj. Otherwise, the fate of farmers would not have been so bad. Farmers before independence were paying the tax to the then rulers. None of the rulers nor kingdoms ever had any debt in the past. At present, every nation is in debt, in billions of dollars. The debt is also on just born babies and those yet to be born. And we never know when this debt would be cleared. The civilizations, culture and traditions flourished with the development, progress of agriculture, and surplus food production. The great monuments stand testimony to the prosperous agriculture-based economy in the past.
In the past, the development systems based on the primary sector such as agriculture was more sustainable. All the communities existed as a social network and promoted farming. The farmers had pride. Since last two decades, the farmers’ contribution to the economic development of the nation is least considered, although the majority of the population is still dependent on the agriculture sector. This is because of undervaluing the price of produce and labor. With the green revolution, the farmer’s dependency on the non-sustainable input systems increased. The increased production is at the cost of degraded environment and ecological systems. The ecological footprint of the farmer is growing. The contribution of the greenhouse gasses emissions from the agriculture sector is also increasing. The vulnerability of agriculture sector is growing from newer dimensions such as climate change, pollution, environmental degradation, GM crops, etc.
Today, the economy is becoming more and more virtual, which is based on printed money, petrodollars, shares, and inflation. The farmers are contributing to the real economy through production. Through right price to the farmer, we could restore the pride of their farmer and also address the food security of the nation. Then the farmer’s hand would be a ‘giving hand’ rather a ‘receiving hand.’ The farmers would give up all the subsidies, get paid worth their labor, would employ people, adopt technologies, pay for power and water, etc. They would be no more at the mercy of policies. The farmer would also pay taxes for the development of the resources and social security. Once again we would see debt-free nations.
We are not sensitive to farmers; they are taken for granted. The day will come when everyone realizes the basis of our existence.