Cooperatives Alone Can Address Small Farmers’ Woes

By Nantoo Banerjee

How long will the country mutely witness thousands of its debt-stricken small farmers committing suicides year after year, no matter which political party is in power at the Centre or states? With 67 per cent of India’s farmland held by marginal farmers and continuous shrinkage of acreage under their control provide an alarming picture of the future of those poor farmers and India’s agriculture. Unfortunately, political parties do not seem to be concerned about addressing the real issue of making agriculture scientifically sustainable without such political doles as writing-off poor farmers’ bank-debts and certain farm subsidies that indirectly benefit industrial producers of power, fertilisers and pesticides more than their direct users.

By its geographical size, India is the world’s most populated country. A continuously unremunerative domestic agriculture can ruin its all other economic advantages. It is another matter that financially-sick farmers across the country may someday organise themselves to revolt against the government or administration, instead of cheaply ending life by committing suicide. Also, if the crisis persists, India may have to live substantially on food imports in due course.

It is high time that both the central and state governments take a serious view of the last agricultural census to address the situation through legal and social measures. The government’s own official statement puts “the average size of the (farm) holding at 1.15 hectare. And, the size of these holdings has shown a steady declining trend since 1970-71.” The large holdings of 10 hectares and above account for less than one par cent of the country’s farmland.

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