Dr. Banarsi Lal and Dr. Pawan Sharma
India is predominantly an agricultural country and agriculture is the backbone of India’s economic development. More than 80 per cent of the rural population of India contributes about 14-15 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Every year 23rd of December is observed as the National Farmers Day or Kisan Diwas in all the states/UTs of India to honour the former Prime Minister of India, Choudhary Charan Singh with full enthusiasm and joy. On this day the awareness among the citizens is created to understand importance of farmers in the society for the overall social and economic development of the nation. Choudhary Charan Singh was born on 23 December, 1902. Several debates, seminars, webinars, quiz competitions, discussions, workshops, exhibitions, essays, functions etc. are organised by various institutions especially on agriculture across the nation. Choudhary Charan Singh was primarily a peasant and always led an extremely simple life. Choudhary Charan Singh held the office as the fifth Prime Minister of India from 28th July 1979 to 14th January, 1980. He is well-known for the budget he represented in 1979.That budget was amalgamated to accomplish the needs of farmers and included everything that a farmer expects. During his tenure as the Prime Minister, he introduced many policies to improve lives of the Indian farmers. He took various initiatives for the welfare of the farmers and united farmers’ community against the landlords and money lenders across the nation. He always followed the famous slogan ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan’ given by the 2nd Prime Minister of India, Lal Bahadur Shastri. He was an avid writer and wrote several books depicting his thoughts on lives of the farmers. He always tried to find out the solutions of various problems of the farming community. Choudhary Charan Singh passed away on 29th of May, 1987 but his contributions for farmers are still known. Charan Singh’s peasantry background helped him to understand the real problems of the farmers and he did his best to solve them. He was a son of soil and he contributed immensely to improve lives of the farmers. Choudhary Charan Singh is credited to formulate and implement the Zamindari Abolition Act. Farmers Day is celebrated to recognise his valuable services rendered to the farmers of the country. The famous ‘Kisan Ghat’ in New Delhi is dedicated to Choudhary Charan Singh due to his services for the farmers. Various agricultural institutions and farmers organise agricultural based programmes to pay homage to their beloved leader.
Agriculture sector is unquestionably the largest livelihood provider and is considered as the largest private enterprise in India. India is the land of villages and agriculture is the main source of income for the farmers. About 70 per cent of the Indian population still thrives on the income generated through cultivation. Farmers are spine of India. This sector provides the commodities and raw material required in non-agriculture and industrial sector. Although the contribution of this sector to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is declining year after year but still this sector is significantly contributing to the GDP of the nation. By 2030, when India’s population is estimated to be around 150 crores, the requirement of food grains will be around 334 million tonnes. Agricultural sector is undergoing a structural change with respect to its farm size, cropping pattern and share in the national Gross Value Added (GVA).Now we have achieved high crops production but still there is agrarian crisis. In order to increase income of the farmers there is dire need to adopt the income centric approach in preference to production. There is need to facilitate farmers so that they can operate their farm enterprises on the basis of profitable returns. Promotion of agriculture as a true self- enterprise will have to define by the sustainability of resources. Sustainability refers to appropriate use of natural resources, environmentally friendly technologies and protection of bio-diversity with a view to ensure the food and nutritional security of the increasing population. There is need to provide the equal opportunities for all categories of the farmers to grow and earn net family incomes, more than they are presently earning.
Presently around 86 per cent of the total numbers of holdings in the country are under small and marginal farmers categories. The average size of holding in the country is around 1.15 ha. According to Situation Assessment Survey of Farmers in 2013, the average monthly income of agricultural household at All India level was Rs.6, 426 and the average monthly consumption expenditure was 6,223. This indicates the vulnerability of the farmers in terms of adequacy of their income to meet family expenses and create savings that can be plowed back as investments on his farm. The farmers’ incomes are linked to the growth rates of agriculture sector. During the 11th plan (2006-07 to 2011 -12), the agriculture growth rate was 3.3 per cent as against the target of 4 per cent. The growth rate of 12th plan (2012-13 to 2017-18) has been less targeted on account of poor performance in 2012-13 and two severe droughts in year 2014-15 and 2015-16. But the year 2016-17 has shown growth buoyancy. There is need to increase the income of the farmers so that their standard of living can be improved and they can also generate the savings. Because of lack of savings and non-availability of required quantum of credits, farmer is compelled to borrow the money from money lenders. It has been observed that indebtedness is an important factor for the farmers’ suicides and around 52 per cent of the agricultural households in the country are estimated to be indebted. Government of India in its budget 2016-17 declared its commitment to double the farmers income over the period of six years from 2016-17 to 2021-22. In order to double the farmers income the growth rate of agricultural production is important but that is not sufficient. The emphasis on post-production of crops is also very important so that the income of the farmers can be increased.
Agriculture comprises various sub-sectors such as field crops, horticulture, animal husbandry, sericulture, fisheries etc. and it is important to understand the composition of these sub-sectors and the growth potential of each of these. The Internal Rates of Returns are not uniform from all the sectors. It has also been observed that the livestock, fishing and aquaculture have more growth potential as compared to crops sector. Within the crops sub-sectors, horticulture sector has been registering more growth rates over last decade. From 2010-11 to 2014-15, the area under horticultural crops increased by 18 per cent while the area under agricultural crops has increased by 5 per cent. The share of horticultural output as a percentage of agriculture now constitutes 30 per cent. It is obvious that horticulture, livestock and fisheries have great potential and need special emphasis. Also the efforts are needed to increase the yields of field crops. Road, markets, irrigation, godowns, cold storage infrastructures, knowledge creation through technical development and so on are necessary for the agricultural growth in the country. For instance, improving of road infrastructure leads to reduction in the cost of transportation and thereby marketing costs can be reduced. The investments by public and private sectors can play a critical role for the agricultural growth in India. Farmers’ suicides are an avoidable issue, if appropriate and timely interventions are made in agriculture sectors. The policies and programmes of the government should be designed in such a way so that farmers can be facilitated at every stage of crops production and post-production chain. By the Soil Health Card Scheme, the farmers can learn the nutrient and physicochemical status of the soil and thus can decide the nature and quantum of fertilizers and amendments in soil. Such techniques can reduce the cost of cultivation. By e-National Agriculture Market (eNAM) information, farmers can decide whether to sell the farm produce or to postpone for the time being. The Comprehensive Crop Insurance Scheme entitled as Pardhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana aims to insure the farmers’ crops at the low premium rates. PM-KISAN is proving as a boon to the farmers. The interventions on food processing, supply chain and value chain management can help the farmers to realise their great monetary returns from their farm produce. Various central and state agricultural schemes and programmes can also be helpful in increasing the income of the farmers.