Agrarian Scenario in Post-reform India – A Story of Distress, Despair and Death

Srijit Mishra
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Indian agriculture today is under a large crisis. An average farmer households returns from cultivation would be around one thousand rupees per month. The incomes are inadequate and the farmer is not in a position to address the multitude of risks: weather, credit, market and technology among others. Social responsibility of education, healthcare and marriage instead of being normal activities add to the burden. All these would even put the semi-medium farmer under a state of transient poverty. The state of the vast majority of small and marginal farmers and agricultural labourers is worse off. An extreme form of response to this crisis is the increasing incidence of farmers suicides. In such situations, employment programmes can provide some succour to the agricultural labourers and also perhaps to the marginal and small farmers. The least that one can expect from such programmes is rent-seeking. Some recent evidences indicate that one can develop institutions to address this. It is this that gives a glimmer of hope in the larger story of distress, despair and death.
Incidentally, this paper provides some estimates from National Sample Survey (NSS) region wise information on returns to cultivation and on some aspects of farmers indebtedness based on the 33rd schedule 59th round survey of 2003. It provides suicide mortality rate for farmers, non-farmers and age-adjusted population across states of India from 1995-2004.