ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Doubling Farmers’ Incomes

Mechanisms and Challenges

Doubling Farmers’ Incomes

The government’s initiative to increase farmers’ incomes is welcome as it is central to dealing with the agrarian crisis in India. Various mechanisms for increasing farmers’ incomes from the perspective of small farmers and farm workers are critically examined. The article proposes a focus on high-value crops and rain-fed areas, non-farm occupations, agro-industrialisation, and strengthening and innovating producer and worker institutions in India. It also presents insights from China’s proposed strategy for doubling farmers’ incomes there.

One of the major policy initiatives of the National Democratic Alliance government in the agricultural sector is that of doubling farmers’ incomes by 2022. This is a laudable objective and, therefore, has generated a lot of academic and popular interest. The need to focus on farmers’ incomes instead of production or the growth rate in agriculture stems from the fact that there has been agrarian distress in the sector for the last two decades. Official recognition of the distress and the agrarian crisis came in the form of a NSSO (National Sample Survey Office) survey in 2003, which reported that 40% of Indian farmers disliked farming as a profession due to its low profits, high risk, and the lack of social status and, therefore, would like to leave it at the first opportunity (Agarwal and Agrawal 2017). They were continuing to farm in the absence of opportunities outside agriculture. Further, there are caste-wise differences among farmers in terms of their interest in farming; the higher castes seem to be more disenchanted with farming than Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) farmers. Among the SCs and STs, the dislike for farming diminishes with increase in landholding size and increases in the case of other castes (Birthal et al 2015).

The need to focus on farmers’ incomes also stems from the fact that a very large proportion of farming households in most of the central and eastern states (23%–45%) live below the poverty line (BPL), higher than the national average (22.5%). The proportion of BPL farming households (17.5%–22.5%), even in some of the so-called agriculturally progressive states, such as Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu, is close to the national average. Further, the gap between farm and non-farm incomes has grown over the decades, from a ratio of 1:3 in the mid-1980s to 1:4.08 in the middle of last decade, and 1:3.12 in 2011–12 (Chand 2017).

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Updated On : 16th Feb, 2018

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