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Will this time monsoon bring cheer to the farmers, will it

help in stopping their suicide?


India is often called land of paradoxes. The highest growth
rate of India as a major economy despite the global
headwinds has baffled economists throughout the world. The
point to be noted here is that it is not the only area where
India has made a mark. The country which gave the slogan
of Jai Jawan Jai Kisan (Salute Soldier Salute Farmer) is also
known to have one of the highest farmer suicides in the
world. The occupation of farming on one hand has a great
responsibility to feed billions of starving mouths and on the
other, they are themselves left to starve and fend for
themselves.
Why the high rate of suicides? The agricultural income
has declined in the last two years due to monsoon deficit of
12 and 14 per cent the country has been facing with the
prevalence of El-Nino (climatic cycle in the Pacific Ocean
having global impact). Given the fact that more than 85% of
the agriculture depends on South Western Monsoon, its
importance cant be stated more. The uncertain rainfall takes
a toll on the crop harvest and devastates the farmers
dreams of prosperity pushing them into gargantuan debts
leading to suicides.
Consequences of poor rainfall: The ramifications of
monsoon deficit are manifold. The loss of the present years
crop is merely the tip of the iceberg. Our country is home of
maximum number of small and marginal farmers who live on
hand to mouth concept and barely have any savings or
insurance. They take huge amounts of money as loan from
local money lenders at high interest rates to meet the input
costs of seeds, fertilizers etc. Even in case of good monsoon
their savings remain meagre as most of the revenue goes in
the payment of loan, interest and daily expenditures. In
cases of untimely rains and its deficit the situation is beyond
imagination.

There is a silver lining this time as the Indian Meteorological


Department has predicted a 106% rainfall which has a
potential of bringing back the happiness and cheer to rural
India. Empirical studies have shown that a severe El-Nino is
generally followed by a La-Nina (a phenomenon reverse of
El-Nino) which is a cause of bumper harvest in India.
However, it is still uncertain if this year will become the year
of La-Nina, though chances remain high given the El-Nino
was the second most severe ever experienced.
In any case, Economic Survey 2015-16 has held high hopes
on the monsoon and it says that GDP growth of the country
depends on the monsoon. A good harvest will augment the
rural income which will have a positive impact on the rural
demand. Farmers will be able to pay off the past debts and a
streak of confidence will be reignited in them. This will give a
boost to domestic consumption, C which is the highest
contributor to the GDP (=C+I, Investment +G, Government
Spending +NX, Net Exports) of the country.
Is dependence on monsoon correct? One major question
that arises here is that- Is it correct for the largest democracy
having more than 600 million people sustaining on
agriculture to depend entirely on monsoon vagaries for filling
their stomach? Certainly not. There are various other
challenges confronting the agriculture sector needing
imminent attention.
Challenges to the agriculture sector: Firstly, the lack of
irrigation infrastructure is primarily responsible for this
dependence. Second, the lack of investment and awareness
about rain water harvesting leads to wastage of excessive
rainfall in one season and prevalence of drought in other.
Third, the money lenders in the system who oppress farmers
and misuse their innocence and ignorance need to get
replaced by formal banking system. Fourth, the insurance of
crop which is less than 30% at present needs to go up to
cover even the most marginal of the farmer. Fifth, the middle

men in APMC markets who take away a large share of


farmers income need to be checked.
The Government of India has taken several progressive
steps in this regard such as Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima
Yojana, National Agricultural Markets, Pradhan Mantri Jan
Dhan Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana, Krishi
Kalyan cess etc. to augment farmer income. However, a lot
more needs to be done, particularly to check the high
dependency on monsoon. One of the most significant steps
proposed by Economic Survey is changing the cropping
pattern and making it more suitable to the local
environmental conditions. For instance, a shift towards
pulses which require less water and bring more revenue is
suggested.
Until then, it seems that this monsoon can prove to be life
saver for Indian farmers and bring back the cheer to their
lives.

Ashima Mittal
Ashima.mittal@gmail.com
Disclaimer: The ideas presented above are original and not
copied from any source.