Citing 2011 census, Govt claims farmers are not quitting agriculture

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Citing 2011 census, Govt claims farmers are not quitting agriculture

NSSO survey shows at least 45 percent of farmers want to quit farming

Nirmesh Singh
New Delhi | 14 March 2018

Despite the worsening agrarian crisis, government has not yet assessed the number of farmers who have quit agriculture and the reasons behind leaving farming.

In a reply to a question from BJP’s MP, Jagdambika Pal in Lok Sabha on March 6, the Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, Gajendra Shekhawat told that government had not conducted any study since 2011 census to assess how many farmers had quit agriculture and reasons behind it.

“However, as per the Census 2011 the total number of agricultural workers in the country, comprising of cultivators and agricultural labourers, have increased from 234.1 million (127.3 million cultivators and 106.8 million agricultural labourers) in 2001 to 263.1 million (118.8 million cultivators and 144.3 million agricultural labourers) in 2011”, he added.

Over not wanting to assess how many farmers have quit farming and the reasons, noted Food and Agri expert, Devinder Sharma said, “This only shows the contempt which ruling parties have towards farmers”.

“Everyone knows that farmers are quitting agriculture and also the reasons. There is a class contempt against farmers from the civil society, economists and politicians”, he added.

Experts and farm activists have been highlighting that due to dwindling incomes in agriculture, the youth is not interested to continue as farmers. The meagre income has resulted in farmers suicides as they were not able to pay off farm loans. Waiving off the farm loans and implementing MSP according to C2 formula are the major demands of farmers.

Devinder Sharma further said, “Whether its implementing the 7th pay commission or increasing dearness allowance after every few months, government has money but when it comes to giving dues for farmers, government has no money”.

The surveys conducted by various organizations over the last five years have also been indicating a divergent picture from what government is saying.

The latest Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) of NGO Pratham showed about out of the 42 percent of the rural youth in the 14-18 year age group, just 1.2 percent wanted to become a farmer.

According to the 2014 survey conducted by the Delhi-based Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), about 60 percent of farmers were ready to quit farming for a better job in the city.

In 2013, Prof M S Swaminathan at 43rd convocation of Acharya NG Ranga agricultural University, had said, “About 45 per cent of farmers interviewed by National Sample Survey Organisation wanted to quit farming. The pressure on land is increasing and average size of land holdings is dwindling. Farmers are getting indebted and temptation to sell prime farm land for non-farm purpose is growing as land prices go up steeply. We need to improve productivity and profitability of small holdings”.