Bouts of farm distress continue to be reported from different parts of the country. Left unattended, the distress can lead to suicides by farmers.

In the absence of a credible mechanism to identify the distress as it happens, farmers facing hardships are not being attended to at the right time.

Scientists at the Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA), an Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) organ, have developed an early warning system called Farmers Distress Index.

“The index is built on 21 simple questions, divided into seven blocks of three questions each. By getting answers to these questions, we can tell whether they are experiencing distress or not,” A Amarender Reddy, Head, Section of Design and Analysis of ICAR-CRIDA, told businessline.

The index was developed as part of the Nabard-funded project on ‘Farmers Distress and Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY)’.

How it works

Reddy, who led the project, says the index can sense imminent distress at least 3-4 months ahead of its actual occurrence, allowing governments and other agencies to take preventive steps. “If they are in distress, the Index can tell at what level they are in,” he said.

The institute prepared the questions around seven key pillars that capture their financial, emotional, and other parameters. A web application and a beta version of the Android app are ready. 

“After identifying a vulnerable village or mandal, we can ask these questions to a sample of farmers. The data will be keyed into the app, which will generate a report based on the responses,” he said.

Crucial tool

Farmers’ distress is a recurrent problem in dryland areas of India, especially in drought-prone areas of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Maharashtra.

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There are a host of reasons that can cause distress among farmers.

“It can be financial, economic, and emotional hardship triggered by crop failures, low productivity, low prices for their produce, lack of access to credit, pressure from money lenders for loan repayments, and natural disasters,” he said.

This app will be helpful in measuring the severity and dimensions of the probable distress and inform the local governments to take timely action to reduce the severity.