India File

‘Uncool’ farming hits Patidars hard

Rutam Vora | Updated on August 14, 2018 Published on August 14, 2018

No to farming Maulik Gaudani says it won’t fetch him a bride

Affluent, hardworking and courageous, is how one of the most prominent communities in Gujarat — the Patidars — are described. Since Independence, Patidars have developed an inseparable identity with farming. Yet a brewing discontent and search for a sustainable livelihood has caused a decline of Patidars as an agrarian community that is turning to alternate employment.

Sample this: 26-year-old Business Administration graduate (BBA) Maulik Gaudani prefers working as a clerk at a commission agent at one of the Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs) in Mahuva in Bhavnagar district than tilling his own 20-bigha land. The reasons may range from costly inputs to lack of irrigation, water and non-remunerative prices, but the primary reason for people like Gaudani for moving away from farming is that it is an ‘uncool profession’.

“The ground water is saline and irrigation is inadequate. We can only take one crop, which fetches a net income of ₹35,000-40,000 a year, insufficient to survive for a family. Animal husbandry doesn’t succeed either,” says Gaudani, adding that all his past generations till his father have depended on farming, but not any more. “I never imagined being a farmer myself because of the challenges involved and low returns. I wanted to do my own business, because I have seen my family suffer due to farming,” he adds.

The story is no different in other villages. “Most people we see in villages are 50-60 years old. Youth are moving away in search of more stable and remunerative jobs,” says Hirjibhai Bhingradia, a farmer from Malpara village in Botad district.

Bhingradia adds, “In the eyes of elite society, farming is still an underrated occupation and ‘uncool’. It is also because of this perception that young boys aren’t getting brides of their choice and hence get prompted to change the profession.”

Gaudani too is trying to get a ‘stable’ job that makes him a suitable boy. “Land or farming doesn’t get you a good bride, but a good job does. I will never think of returning to farming now,” he says, adding that he has thin hopes from government schemes either, as initiatives such as ‘Startup India’ have proved to be mere advertisements with nothing moving on ground.

Spending huge amounts on getting a degree in BBA saw Gaudani end up as a clerk at a commission agent. “This very thought is disturbing. But I have chosen to work here because I have to support my family,” adds Gaudani, who lives with grandparents and parents in Bhanwad near Mahuva. Ironically, Bhavnagar has given top leaders to both the political parties, be it Congress or the BJP, with the latter’s sitting State party chief hailing from the district. But with limited skills and a predominantly farming background, the Gaudanis are in a catch-22 situation. On the one hand, they can’t do farming while on the other, they don’t get suitable jobs due to fierce competition and skill requirements. A demand for reservation, thus, is seen as a ray of hope.

“Irrespective of our talent, the normal remuneration we get is about ₹10,000. Further studies are non-affordable. This is why we need reservation in jobs to protect our interests. Even with 80-90 per cent results, we end up working at private companies with petty salaries,” says Gaudani.

Even though legal experts counter Gaudani’s reservation demand, there is a section of people supporting the argument in favour of reservation for economically backward communities.

Bhingradia defends the reservation demand, saying it shouldn'’t be only for the Patidar community.

“At a time when farming has become non-remunerative and cost of living is rising, the reservation demand stands valid on an economic basis.

The youth of today, especially the Patidars, have discovered that current system favouring the weak and punishing the talented. As a result, there is growing discontent. Patidars are hardworking by nature, they can toil on the farms but for this, the policy-makers should fix the price problem,” adds Bhingradia.

Bhingradia has taken several initiatives for scientific farming and popularise the same among farming community and provided training to them.

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Published on August 14, 2018
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