The distressed Indian farmer

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Mangaluru: Recently, a farmer committed suicide at a farmer’s rally held by Arvind Kejriwal, the Chief Minister of Delhi. Kejriwal faced severe criticism for continuing with his speech as though nothing had happened. Economically distressed farmers have been committing suicides for a long time in India. It is not surprising that Kejriwal was not to perturbed by the death of a farmer. For some reason, the press gives space to farmer suicides. These events get talked about a lot in the parliament and the media, and yet nothing changes. Why nothing changes is because there is no clear understanding about why the farmer is so economically challenged.


Farming as an occupation is losing favor fast. Young people with a little education prefer driving or being a clerk at a small shop to farming. Farming is considered a difficult occupation with low returns. Not so long ago, farmers had few wants. Most villages did not have electricity. So there was no television to create needs. The big expenses came when someone got married or sick. And that was when a small farmer would sell a little land or get into debt. The topic of exploitation of the Indian farmers by money lenders has been ruminated by many leading authors like Munshi Premchand and Changampuzha Krishna Pillai. Movies like Mother India and Do Beegah Zameen made people weep for the suffering farming community. The farmers remain poor inspite of all the attention they received by the arts, the media, and the politicians.

The money lending Zamindars are mostly gone today and yet the farmers are entrenched in debt. This is because the Indian farmer thinks handouts and loans are his only options. He thinks he is destined to be poor. If you belong to a Banana republic, that is, a country whose entire economy depends on exporting bananas, then this attitude would be right. But India is free to grow what she wants. No one dictates to her. The Indian farmer must grow timber, sandalwood, and other cash crops, so that he can become wealthy. Very little effort has been made by the Indian governments so far to educate the Indian farmers on how they can maximize their income. Help typically comes as some kind of monetary handouts. The Indian Government must pay heed to the Chinese proverb “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. Moreover, it is illegal to grow some trees like sandalwood trees without a license. Sandalwood is profitable enough to kill. But the farmers have not yet cashed in on such profits. The licenses and corruption in the rural sector keeps the farmer growing low income crops which keeps him in perennial poverty.

Now, even if the farmer comes with a scheme that makes money, there is no guarantee he will continue reaping benefits for long. The rubber farmers of South India were making a neat profit in the last decade. But the Indian government decided to import cheap rubber, thereby, bringing down the rubber prices. The farmers who borrowed on the basis of future profits are now left distressed. There needs to be price protection for farmers. Some crops like Cashewnuts have price protection. But Indian cashewnuts are disappearing at an alarming rate from the earth. Better access to automation would have helped this labor intensive product.

Clearly, better education and planning will help the Indian farmer. Instead of viewing farming as an occupation of losers, let us give it the stature it deserves. Farmers help us put food on our tables. Let us make sure that they will never have to choose a noose around their neck due to economic distress.

Maya Mohsin Ahmed – archives:

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  1. Madam, your articles are very interesting to read.

    If we reflect on our own lives we will realize just about 2 generations back our ancestors were farmers because that was the only way of generating food and making a living. Most of the food was produced in our own backyard and it goes for most of the people anywhere in India probably the world.

    When people got educated we thought farming is a labour job meant for the uneducated. Most of us migrated to cities and we expected good jobs with big salaries or set up businesses with good profits but in return we expect the groceries that we bring home must be cheap. Rice must be cheap, vegetables must be cheap, fruits must be cheap. So there is squeezing going on everywhere and I feel the most exploited person is the poor farmer who has to sweat it out and get nothing in returns.

    How can a farmer buy a Rs 50 lakh apartment? We hear a person dealing in stocks makes huge profits or someone working in a good co. earning high salary for a 9 to 5 job who can afford some luxuries and things like that. We expect our mutual funds to give a return of 10% plus, we expect our properties to fetch double in few years so why not farmer also make some money like that out of his own hard labour.

    If a farmer should not commit suicide we the non farming community who fill our stomachs because of hard work of these farmers should be generous enough to pay a little extra so that the benefit is passed on to the farmer. Some big companies have already this method in place that they give back profits to the farming community by giving them better price on their yields. I think these things should come out in a person out of compassion because it cannot be taught in schools.

  2. Dear readers,

    Our Indian mass media is rated in terms of TRP only those incident in which public view is getting attention.

    Since Maharashtra BJP came to power under CM Fadnavi’s average 12 farmers are consuming pesticides to kill themself due to ecnominc hardship and drought situation.

    In order inflict more damage to the wounds,now they have banned ‘Cow slagughter’ when not even 40% of fodder is not avilable for the animals.

    Now the BJP government which banned cow citing agriculture reason now have no option but offer ‘Go Mutra’ ‘Gobbar’ to the hunger of farmers.

    While ‘Go Hataya’ is not permissible under PM Modi for domestic consumption but for the sake of foreign exchange exports is allowed by the Hindus.

    Aab ki bar Modi sarkar, Kissan ka parivar anath.

    Jai Hind

  3. Dear Anand Dsilva, your’s is an exceptional sane voice from an educated man, for the non-farming community expects the farmer to toil for nothing and wane out from this world unsung and unrecognised!

  4. Children of farmers are now are getting education . Very few are following the profession of their peers.
    We will face dire situation if migration from farmer profession to other profession takes place rapidly.
    In D.K. itself we are coming across plenty of farmland without nil cultivation .
    If this continues for another 10 years we may have to import all our food grain requirements.
    One more green revolution is the need of the hour with consolidated , mechanized farming.
    Land bill envisaged by NDA may be with this thought in mind.

  5. “Novro Jaai Kuwaitacho!”

    Chedun kitle shiklan?

    “Byculla ani America Sangatha yethan”

    People are ambitious, But No body wants to wet their “ahha” to catch fish or while paddy planting.

    Then we must embrace mechanization.
    May be we should use remote controlled DONES to drill coconut bunch base.
    Nothing happens without aspiration! Thanks folks.

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