Agri Business

After farm laws get repealed, what’s lies in store for farmers?

Radheshyam Jadhav Pune | Updated on November 24, 2021

Creating agri infra and stopping young farmers from quitting farming a challenge

Amid the hullabaloo over the withdrawal of farm laws, young Vaibhav Wagh is busy completing his mechanical engineering in Pune, and is completely indifferent to the ongoing debate and discussions on farm laws.

“I don’t want to go back to my village and be a farmer. It’s not possible to survive as a farmer,” says Vaibhav, who has a strong reason to say so. He was in the eighth standard when his father Mukund ended his life in 2012 after consecutive crop failures, and his mother somehow managed to look after Vaibhav and his sister by cultivating on a two-acre family land.

Coming from Malegaon village in Washim district of Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, Vaibhav says the new generation in the family of farmers has already moved away from farming and is looking for a livelihood in cities.

In hundreds of villages in the Vidarbha and Marathwada regions of Maharashtra, which have been reporting the highest number of farmer suicides, the young generation is deserting farming.

“There are major problems.. right from water supply to roads. Agriculture is a loss-making venture. Why should we continue as farmers?” asks Vaibhav.

Who will create infra?

The Union government introduced farm laws, saying that these laws will accelerate investments, creating more employment opportunities for the rural youth. Farm laws would have enabled scaling of investment by the industry for production and processing of high-value agriculture produce and give a fillip to exports, according to the government.

The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020 was planned to encourage investments in supply chain and marketing infrastructure, including storage facilities to create rural employment.

The opponents of laws claimed that the government was initiating these steps to benefit private players, and the government should itself invest in agriculture infrastructure. “There is no infrastructure and marketing facilities here. We still struggle to get basic infrastructures like roads and transport. Why our kids should continue in agriculture and for whom?” asks Ranjana Doifode, a farmer from Sarola village in Osmanabad.

Rains play spoilsport

Massive rains in September inundated farmlands in the Marathwada and tonnes of harvested soya piled up in open fields across the region. Tomato farmers in Aurangabad dumped the produce along the roadside as rates plummeted, and it was impossible even to recover transportation prices as markets are not within reach of farmers.

Cold storages, quality power supply, and processing units are distant dreams for farmers in the region, who don’t even have tin sheds to store the harvested crop. “We have seen what consecutive governments have done to develop agriculture infrastructure in the last 75 years. And again, if we still continue to depend on the government for another 75 years, I don’t know if there will be any farmers left in India,” says Tatyasaheb Suryawanshi a small farmer from the Satara district in western Maharashtra.

He has migrated to Pune to work as a driver, and his brother works as a courier boy in Mumbai. His one-and-a-half-acre land in Beldare village is being cultivated by his parents and wife. He says that he is ready to work with private investors who would be interested in investing in his farm. “I am even ready to rent out my farmland as we are not able to do much with it,” says Tatyasaheb.

Tatyasaheb is among the nearly 86 per cent of small and marginal farmers in India, who have average land holdings of less than 1.1 hectare. The declining trends in the size of agricultural holdings and a rising population will further push the fragmentation of holdings and the average size of operational holdings is certain to further decrease, according to experts.

“You will find only women and senior family members indulged in agriculture. My husband ended his life because of losses in agriculture. My son doesn’t want to be a farmer and I will not force him to stick to agriculture. I don’t see any development happening in agriculture,” says farmer Vidya More from Sarola village in Osmanabad.

As the debate on who should create infrastructure in agriculture continues on social-media platforms and political and intellectual circles after the government decided to withdraw farm laws, hundreds of youngsters are silently moving away from farming.

(This is the first of the five-part series on repeal of farm laws)

Published on November 23, 2021

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