Agri Business

14 crore agri labourers ignored in race to dole out loan waivers

Radheshyam Jadhav Pune | Updated on January 07, 2019 Published on January 07, 2019

Even as States are once again vying to announce loan waivers to help farmers, government data suggest that such efforts have failed to mitigate farm distress as they leave out 14.43 crore agricultural labourers, who constitute 55 per cent of the people involved in agriculture in India.

Across States, 16,324 farm labourers and 20,008 farmers ended their lives in three years (2014-16). Of the total agricultural suicides during this period, suicides by farm labourers constitute 45 per cent.

The data show that of their total population involved in agriculture, 16 States have more than 50 per cent of people working as agricultural labourers. Bihar, West Bengal, Goa, Uttarakhand and Mizoram have not reported any farmer suicides during the period, but only agricultural labourer suicides.

Of the total agricultural suicides during this period in Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Tripura and Gujarat, more than 90 per cent were by farm labourers. Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh (including Telangana) top the list of farmer suicides and farm labourer suicides. Eight States, including Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Haryana, reported more than 50 per cent farm labourer suicides in total agricultural suicides during the period.

The crisis involving farm labourers is likely to worsen with the World Bank predicting that the percentage of agricultural workers in the total workforce would drop to 25.7 per cent by 2050 from 58.2 per cent in 2001.

Farmers are adapting to farm mechanisation at a faster rate, according to the Economic Survey 2017-18 and this might put labourers in more distress.



Farm-loan waivers benefit farmers and not farm labourers, says Suvarna Katrale, a landless farm labourer from drought-prone Osmanabad district of Maharashtra. She added that any scheme that leaves out labourers is not going to resolve the agricultural crisis. “Everyone is talking about farmer suicides, but what about farm labourers ending their lives?” she asked.

Even Telangana’s Rythu Bandhu scheme, which gives farmers a cash grant during the cropping season, fails to benefit farm labourers.

As per the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) data, agricultural households constitute 57.8 per cent of the total estimated rural households of the country and out of 26.31 crore people involved in agriculture, 11.88 crore (45 per cent) are farmers and 14.43 crore (55 per cent) are agricultural labourers. The National Commission on Farmers (NCF) under the chairmanship of Professor M S Swaminathan had recommended that agricultural labourers be treated as landless farmers and suggested several major non-farm initiatives along with employment guarantee programmes for them.

Human power availability in agriculture increased from about 0.043KW/ ha in 1960-61 to about 0.077 KW/ ha in 2014-15. However, as compared to tractor growth, increase in human power in agriculture is quite slow, according to the World Bank. In 1960-61, about 93 per cent farm power was coming from animate sources, which has reduced to about 10 per cent in 2014-15. On the other hand, mechanical and electrical sources of power have increased from 7 per cent to about 90 per cent during the same period.

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Published on January 07, 2019
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