Loan waiver alone not the panacea for Maharashtra farmers’ woes: Experts

| Updated on: Jan 12, 2018


High inputs costs, low price for produce and water scarcity are major challenges

Despite the ₹34,000 crore farm-loan waiver in Maharashtra, farmers’ lives are unlikely to change for the better as they will continue to be up against familiar problems such as high input costs, low prices for their produce, and scant water availability, say farm sector experts.

They are of the opinion that the core issues of farming have been left unaddressed, which might aggravate in the coming years.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Saturday announced that all individual loans (below ₹1.5 lakh) taken by farmers will be waived. The move will benefit 89 lakh small farmers, making 40 lakh debt-free.

Director of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Shiv Nadar University, Ajay Dandekar, said that today, the State government needs to look at agriculture in a very different way. Availability of water is the single biggest governing factor in this process. Therefore, farmers can no longer sow water intensive crops in areas where there is no water.

He felt that alternative local crops such as millets needs to be pushed extensively through the public distribution system.

Cropping pattern

Dandekar suggested that procurement of local crops must be undertaken by the State government and the money must reach the hands of the farmers otherwise the cropping pattern won’t change.

“If the cropping pattern does not change, then the water and the consequent agriculture crisis will further deepen. In the next ten years, the demand for water will exceed the supply by almost 30 to 35 per cent,” he said.

This year, in spite of having a bumper crop, farmers in onions and tomato growing areas of the state have not been able to recover even their basic input costs from their sale of farm goods.

A former member of the Maharashtra State Planning Board and economist HM Desarda said that in the wake of the Green Revolution, the farming systems, which were adopted, were based on intensive chemical and industrialised processes. Today, it has changed the very basis of Indian agricultural production.

“From farm-based input, it (agriculture production) has now moved to industrial chemical-based inputs, which are market driven. It is now leading to rising input costs and falling output costs.

“This input intensive agriculture is a big trap and the corporatisation of agriculture will lead to further crisis,” explained Desarda.

LEISA model

The new solution, according to Desarda, should be Low External Input Sustainable Agriculture (LEISA) model. The way to overcome the agrarian crisis is organic farming based on natural organisms such as earthworms and microbial flora, he said.

The Green Revolution led to mono-cropping of wheat and rice, whereas traditional food basket, which was based on millet, cereals and other coarse grains, was relegated to the backseat. Therefore, there is a need to go back to these old crops, Desarda said.

Decision too late

Social and political commentator, Nilu Damle said that the Fadnavis government could not properly handle the farmers’ strike in the State. It could have taken the decisions of loan waiver much earlier. However, the BJP’s understanding of economic policies is very limited, he added.

“The farmers’ problems are very complicated and the institution involved in the calculation of farm prices is also very weak. The farm loan waiver is an eleventh hour political tactic without the backing of any sound strategy,” he said.

Published on June 27, 2017
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