Agri Business

Cultivate fallow land and create job opportunities to address farmer suicides: NIAS study

Our Bureau | Updated on November 14, 2019 Published on November 14, 2019

Representative image   -  Bloomberg

The study also stresses the need to develop skill development strategies for senior agricultural labourers

That India faces a severe agrarian crisis is a given. Even the latest National Crimes Research Bureau (NCRB) figures for 2016 shows that 6,270 farmers committed suicides while 5,109 agricultural labourers took their lives in the same year. The report is indicative of the growing rural distress across the country.

A new study released in Delhi on Wednesday by the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) Bengaluru addresses the agrarian crisis and looks at the need to meet the growing demand for non-farm jobs amidst growing inequality.

Among its recommendations for addressing farmer suicides here are  key takeaways: the NIAS study calls for the setting up institutions that will assists farmers to cultivate land that is currently left fallow and thus increase acreage under farming; educate them on forward markets to tide over price uncertainties at the time of harvest and  create a more credible crop insurance system than what is currently available.

The NIAS study also stresses the need to develop skill development strategies for senior agricultural labourers who currently find themselves unemployable. Additionally, it underlines the state’s responsibility in providing basic necessities--food, water, health and shelter for those facing deprivation.

The two-part study, which took three years in the making, also focusses on the employment problems caused by a variety of transformations in rural India. While agriculture’s share in the GDP has declined to 15 per cent—down from 19 per cent in 2004-2005—it still provides 45 per cent of employment in the country. This has resulted in declining wages vis-a-vis inflation levels and the number of days per work per annum.

This has led to migration to cities creating a hitherto unprecedented demand for jobs. Some of those who move to urban centres do so in search of better jobs, while many others do so to tide over lean periods of no employment in their villages either caused by poor rainfall or natural disasters.

The NIAS report recommends hostels for such circular migrants who live in appalling conditions in our cities for the few months they work there before returning to their villages.

As for those seeking to move out of agricultural employment altogether, the report notes that the state must invest in making skill development accessible in remote areas by setting up mobile training centres. Scholarships for rural youth undergoing skill training would help as also a rural-urban job information network which would keep rural folk informed about the demand for skills in urban centres.

While helping the rural populace to shift to non-farm jobs is commendable, several international experts are also concerned about the shrinking of agriculture, particularly in the less developed world. They fear that it may not be easy to feed the over 9 billion population that will inhabit the earth by 2050 without a major revival of agriculture supported by innovations in cultivation and by developing and conserving water resources.

The NIAS study was conducted by a research team led by Dr Narendra Pani, Professor and Dean, School of Social Sciences of the Bengaluru-based institute.  

Published on November 14, 2019
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