Prakash Murmu is a 71-year-old indigenous farmer. 50 years ago, he left Bankura and moved to Chalk Bihari (West Bengal) to find work. His daughter and wife both help with him with the farming. One afternoon, on the Jalangi River banks, I met Prakash’s family.
In 1950, the agricultural sector contributed 51.9% to India’s GDP. Since then, this figure has been steadily decreasing and it currently stands at 13.9%. With industries growing at a faster pace than the rate at which trees are being planted, will there be a time when agriculture’s productivity dwindles to nothing? Are we already at this point?
Living in a country where cattle is worshipped like a god, about 60% of the population relied on agriculture as their main source of income during the 1950s. Despite half of the population still continuing with the profession, the returns are low, as the sector becomes less and less profitable.
Infrastructure costs have started running high, with maintenance costs and capital investment only adding on to the farmers’ losses. The average recovery rate of the investments made by a typical Indian farmer is only 30%. The life of a farmer is very tough. They work very long days and nights. During summer, they work under the heat of the sun. During winter, they get soaked while ploughing the field in the cold weather. Most of the farmers of our country are illiterate. They can’t read or write. Since they are not educated, they are unaware of their legitimate rights. They are often cheated by money-lenders.
Farmer suicides account for 11.2% of all suicides in India. Activists and scholars have offered a number of conflicting reasons for farmer suicides, such as monsoon failure, high debt burdens, government policies, public mental health, personal issues and family problems. In 2014, the National Crime Records Bureau of India reported 5,650 farmer suicides.
Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana
Farming has become an unreliable sector. Farmers are always unsure of the yield that they will reap, but still strive to draw maximum benefits out of their investments and effort. Often farmers might be at the receiving end, with natural calamities like droughts and floods affecting their yield adversely. To resolve the problem of unpredictable nature of farming and prevent farmer suicides in the country, the Government launched Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana in early 2016. It’s a crop insurance policy with relaxed premium rates on the principal sum insured for farmers. Implemented with a budget of Rs 17,600 crore, this scheme will provide financial support to farmers and cover for their losses.
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