Level-playing Field for Farmers

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A part of the series on ‘Land Reforms in India’, Agrarian Crisis and Farmer Suicides is a collection of essays that builds a clear linkage between an agrarian crisis and its impact on farmers and its dovetailing effect on public policy. Looking at the root causes, not the immediate reasons, for the dilemma that Indian farmers are increasingly facing, this book by R S Deshpande and Saroj Arora takes into account regional specifics in agricultural growth and implementation of policies. Highlighting the employment shift that is taking place due to the changing economic environment, with the agriculture sector also becoming demand-driven, the book asks clear questions from policy-makers on issues as disparate as globlisation, governance, technology and the resources needed to give life to a sector that still supports a majority of the country’s population. 
The book builds a clear linkage between the bad policy and bad weather with increasing farmer distress to buttress its point that farmers’ distress is not isolated in the country, rather it spans its borders. 

Again, like the regions it covers, the book is clear that while the symptoms are many, the root disease is almost the same: official apathy, economic indifference, market imperfections and increasing marginalisation of the agriculture sector. The book also makes a clear distinction between agriculture distress—which relates to declining productivity and poor yields—and agrarian crisis, which relates to the failure of policy support systems. What it is clear about, however, is that the impact of the latter on civil society is more deleterious than that of the former. 

Picking on issues like globalisation, marginalisation, politics and the reforms movement, the book wonders how were small and marginal farmers excluded from the umbrella of change that has been enevolping the country for some time now. Picking up on the farmers’ suicides in Vidhrbha, Punjab and Andhar Pradesh, the book emphasises on the need for a level-playing field for small and marginal farmers. While the book is clear that the reasons for farmers’ suicides in these regions were not common, it highlights the indifferent government response to such actions. It also clearly highlights how the government has failed to respond to what is called ‘increasing globalisation and liberalisation’ of the agriculture sector in the country, which has apparently rendered the farm sector economically unviable. 

And this, the authors note, has been the prime cause for the rising indebtedness in the farming community across the country, forcing more and more farmers to commit suicides. The way forward, the authors note, is to ensure sustainability of small farm agriculture, initiate an effective process of land reforms, promoting greater financial inclusion by addressing the small credit needs of such farmers and improved marketing at the ground level. And, for doing this, the authors feel that what is of prime importance is that the government is able to take the latest technology to the grassroots.

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