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Farm struggle over, time to look at welfare of small farmers for long term gains, suggest experts

Several agricultural experts, while lauding the grit and victory of the agitators, believe that a great responsibility lies ahead on the shoulders of both farmer leaders and the governments.

Written by Anju Agnihotri Chaba | Jalandhar |
December 10, 2021 9:33:52 am
Asset Reconstruction Company, bad loans, NPAs, Non-Performing Assets, farm sector, ARC, farm loans, farm loan waivers, loan waivers, Indian Banks’ Association, state polls, Indian Express, India news, current affairs, Indian Express News Service, Express News Service, Express News, Indian Express India NewsCurrent agitation had also highlighted the fact that if farmers are united, then they can do good for their own community as well as the society.(Representational Photo)

A 379 day struggle — the longest ever by farmers — wrapped up on Thursday, with the farm leaders having successfully coerced the Central government to take back the three contentious agri laws that were passed last year, make MSP on crops a legal guarantee and withdraw cases filed against protesters, among other things.

As farmers vacate various dharna points in the state and start making their journey back home, questions remain about the future of small farmers, especially those who do not produce enough to sell in the market owing to their small land holdings.

Several agricultural experts, while lauding the grit and victory of the agitators, believe that a great responsibility lies ahead on the shoulders of both farmer leaders and the governments.

Experts said that the struggle had sent a message to the government that not pro-corporate but pro-working class models are needed in this country. “When India got its independence in 1947, the focus was on the welfare of the working class. We need to revise that as per the current situation to make even small scale farming viable, so that small and marginal farmers can earn respectable amounts to meet their basic needs,” said an expert.

They said that both the Centre and the state governments need to adopt an agricultural model which should be pro-working class which includes farmers, labourers and several other informal workers where the economic disparities should be minimized.

“In our country, 88% farmers are those who own less than 5 acres of land. Of these 88%, 71% own less than 2.5 acres of land. When a large number of farmers have less to sell in the market because of their small land holdings, then along with Minimum Support Price (MSP) for their crops, they must get a fair remunerative income from relatable occupations like setting up processing units, because MSP alone cannot solve their problems. They need the extra income,” said Gian Singh, retired Economics professor and an expert on farming issues. He added that MGNREGA type policies can be introduced for helping small and marginal farmers to enhance their incomes.

He added that the current agitation had also highlighted the fact that if farmers are united, then they can do good for their own community as well as the society.

“This agitation they fought collectively. Farmers need to adopt cooperative farming where the land holdings are small. In Kerala, for example, there are around 68,000 groups, mainly of women farmers, whoa re indulged in cooperative farming and their profit margins are five times more then the production inputs,” said Prof Singh.

The entire country, said a senior officer of Punjab Mandi Board (PMB), should be divided into agro climatic zones and Punjab must not grow paddy as it was not a crop suited for the state. Paddy can easily be grown in several other states where water is surplus during the rainy season, said the officer, adding that Punjab was forced to grow paddy as the state has sucked out its entire ground water.

“The country must be divided in agro-climatic zones and the crops must be grown as per these zones. Punjab should be given cotton, maize, oilseeds, pulses as it will save the state from becoming a desert and also solve several environment related problems,” said Prof Singh, adding that agro-climatic farming will save huge natural sources and decrease cost of the cultivation too.

The farmers’ struggle also gives a message that in future also, the farmers of the country must remain united. “If they are united only then can the actual distress from farming be dealt with,” said Prof Sukhpal Singh, Principal Economist (Marketing), Punjab Agriculture University (PAU), adding that in future also they must discuss the issues collectively.

“They should debate on their issues with political parties when the elections are round the corner and should put forth their agendas, so that a road map is there to be followed after the formation of governments,” said Prof Sukhpal, adding that farmers have shown that they are not only a vote bank for parties but can also raise actual issues.

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