About 70% said crops got destroyed at least once in the past 3 years

Faced with inadequate returns, a significant chunk of farmers in the country are ready to quit farming if they get alternative job opportunities in urban areas, says a nation-wide study commissioned by Bharat Krishak Samaj and conducted by CSDS.

The study – Report on the State of Indian Farmer – reveals some alarming facts, with 47 per cent of those surveyed believing that the overall condition of the farmers in the country was bad and a whopping three-fourth preferring some work other than farming.

The study was conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) in December last year had surveyed about 5,000 farm households across categories. It interviewed about 11,000 farmers in 274 villages of 137 districts across 18 States.

The survey has tried to capture the opinion, perceptions, attitudes, anxiety and aspirations of the farming community, said Sanjay Kumar of CSDS.

Sixty-one per cent of the farmers surveyed said they would leave farming if they get jobs in the city. The biggest worry for farmers is securing a future of their next generation, says Kumar. As much as 60 per cent wanted their children to migrate to a city.

“Education, health and employment have emerged as major responsibilities that worry Indian farmers,” Kumar said, adding that a little less than half of them were dissatisfied with their present economic condition, but were optimistic their future.

Majority (about 70 per cent) of the farmers said their crops got destroyed at least once in the past three years. About 58 per cent of them blamed both the Centre and State Governments for their problems.

“Contrary to general opinion, we find a low proportion of farmers were worried about repayment of loans,” Kumar said.

The CSDS survey, which also interviewed 4,298 women, found that 67 per cent of them felt that income from agriculture was not sufficient to fulfil the livelihood needs of their families. Of the 2,116 youth interviewed, only 20 per cent said they would continue farming.

A large section of farmers – about 62 per cent – were not aware of the concept of minimum support price (MSP). Lack of awareness on MSP was largely found in Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh to an extent. Among those who had heard of MSP, 64 per cent said they were not satisfied with the prices fixed by the Government for their crops. Interestingly, 73 per cent of the farmers had not heard about the new land acquisition law. Among those who were aware of it, 57 per cent felt that farmers stand to lose from the law. Also, 70 per cent were not aware of the direct cash transfer scheme. However, a third supported the idea of benefits going directly to their bank accounts.

Most of those surveyed felt that only rich farmers got the benefits of Government schemes and policies, and only a tenth of poor and small farmers were found to have benefited from these schemes.

Price rise – poll issue

Price rise will be the most important poll issue in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, according to most of the farmers surveyed. Unemployment and issues related to irrigation will also dominate the general elections.

Over half of those surveyed – 57 per cent – felt that no political party cared about farmers’ interests. About 16 per cent felt that BJP cared about farmers’ interest, while 13 per cent opted for Congress.

In terms of vote intention, a majority (31 per cent) were undecided about their political choice. About 30 per cent seemed to be in favour BJP, while 20 per cent favoured others – mainly the regional parties. About 17 per cent said they were in favour of Congress, while the Left parties attracted interest of only 2 per cent.

(This article was published on March 11, 2014)
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