An Urban view on Farmers’ issues

An Urban view on Farmers’ issues

Narendra M Apte

Citizens who live in urban areas, particularly metros, read news reports and stories about farmers’ problems, farmers’ suicides and issues related to agriculture.

We often hear criticism that city dwellers are unaware or unconcerned about our farmers’ issues, which of course is valid criticism in so far as not many city dwellers get an opportunity to visit a village and see a farmers’ daily routine. I must say that we city dwellers are not against farmers.Those who think in rational terms do not think that there is any conflict of interest between small & medium farmers and ordinary residents of cities/towns.

Here I wish to say something about activities of ‘Pani Foundation’ in Maharashtra. Primary aim of this foundation is to spread knowledge of watershed management and groundwater replenishment, through voluntary efforts of villagers. This year in May 2018 hundreds of volunteers from many cities and towns in Maharashtra joined villagers in hundreds of villages to give a helping hand in their projects of watershed management and groundwater replenishment.There are many stories of success of work done through initiatives of Pani Foundation in many drought affected villages in Maharashtra during last three summers. I see this as a very positive response of city dwellers who are accused of being insensitive to farmers’ woes.

As an urban areas’ representative question that comes to my mind is this: could problems of big farmers (who may own 10 or more hectares of fertile land) be same as those of small farmers? How can all farmers be classified in just one category? I think there will be those who own irrigated land and those who depend on monsoon rain. Then there will be small/medium and large farmers. There can be many categories. Point is that each category has own peculiar problems, some of which are related to droughts, excess or untimely rains, some are market related and some are created by inept handling of farm issues.

Is it not time that we deal with problems of small farmers (not part time farmers) who own less than two hectares of land on a priority basis? As a student of commerce and business management, I know that even though I am not a farming expert, I can certainly use my knowledge of management techniques offer some good suggestions to solve some problems of some farmers, if not all.

When farmers’ problems are discussed, often there is a mention of un-remunerative prices for food grains, pulses, vegetables and fruits. All politicians claim that agriculture is a loss-making activity today. Ironically, all politicians who claim that farming is loss-making activity are against sale of agricultural land to non-farmers! Thus, there is hypocrisy and double standards on this subject.

My view is that all small and medium farmers need freedom to sell their produce in a market place of their choice, not necessarily in markets of Agriculture Produce Marketing Committees, where it is often said deals are not transparent.

I believe farming can be profitable if farmers stand on their own legs, without too much government help. In fact, farmers have to help themselves by setting-up their own organisations (but not cartels) which could provide them technical advice, farming tips, market information and marketing support whenever needed. I also believe that through these organisations, farmers can augment their income from non-core farm activities like sale of milk, eggs, etc.

Is it not time that we deal with problems of all small farmers (who own less than two hectares of land) on a priority basis? If these farmers face difficulties on account of natural disasters like drought or untimely rain and need financial support it is our Central & State governments’ responsibility to mitigate them. In this connection I believe citizens living in metros, cities, towns etc will gladly pay a special tax/surcharge on income tax, proceeds of which tax can go to needy farmers’ bank accounts.