Brewing for many years, India’s agrarian crisis is now reaching its tipping point due to “vague” government policies, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) today said and warned if predictions on El Nino turns out to be true the economic damages will be severe.
A new report of ‘Down To Earth’, the science and environment fortnightly of Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), said that if predictions on El Nino come true, the agrarian crisis will acquire “mammoth” proportions and India’s foodgrain production may come down by close to six per cent.
“The crisis has been brewing and growing for many years, and is now reaching its tipping point. Started by successive failures of monsoons and freak weather events, it has been aided by government policies and actions including inadequate and vague measures for compensating crop loss and reduced investments in and support to official schemes and policies and increasing farmer debts,” CSE said in a statement.
‘Down To Earth’ managing editor Richard Mahapatra said that if predictions on El Nino come true, given the already distressed condition of farmers, the agrarian crisis will acquire “mammoth proportions and the economic damages would be severe”.
The magazine reports that in 2013, five states were affected — 0.35 million hectare of crops destroyed, causing an economic loss of Rs 500 crore.
In the current year, 15 states are already suffering– 18.23 million ha affected, causing an economic loss till date of Rs 20,000 crore.
“If India is under the impact of El Nino, this will be our second consecutive year of monsoon failure and fifth consecutive year of crop damage. The pattern is hauntingly similar to the most severe droughts in recent Indian history caused by two successive monsoon failures — the Bihar famine (1965-1966) which affected 60 million people, and the 1986-87 drought which impacted 300 million,” he said.
The magazine says that while reasons for freak weather events are riddled with meteorological mysteries, the government support structure for handling such calamities is “archaic and insufficient”.
“The ways in which the government calculates damage and disburses compensation are neither simple nor adequate or fair,” the green body said. Noting that entire procedure to assess crop damage is “ancient”, CSE said damage reports are prepared on the basis of “guess work”.
“Down To Earth’s assessment shows that about 50 per cent of beneficiaries are left out of the compensation procedure. Farmers and farmers’ activists say even the maximum compensation amount is 70 per cent less than the market value of the crop lost.
“Only 4 per cent of farmers have insurance to cover crop loss, as small farmers find the premium too high and the sum assured hard to come by,” the statement said.
CSE researchers said that “India’s foodgrain production may come down by close to 6 per cent, as per recent estimates.”
Elaborating about declining rural wages, CSE says the 2014 Economic Survey said that rural wage growth declined to 3.6 per cent in 2014 from 20 per cent in 2011 which also indicated a major dip in income for 400 million daily wagers.
It also noted that there are indications that the slowdown in the real estate sector and construction industry in urban areas has triggered a reverse migration.
“Villages are now flush with more labourers, bringing down the wage rate. The situation will worsen in the near future, as economists say 10 million people will move to rural areas after the urban economy starts slowing down,” it said.
Noting that there is a “declining” foodgrain support price, CSE said that the minimum support price (MSP), fixed by the government for crop, should have come to the rescue of the farmers in these trying times, but the government’s recent decisions have led to downsising of official support for higher MSP.
The green body noted that this year foodgrain production is expected to be 5 per cent lower as compared to last year and in an ideal situation, the prices would have gone up.
“But wholesale prices for paddy and wheat have crashed. The situation is not going to improve in the near future, as global food prices are touching a historic low. The Food Price Index has fallen 22 per cent from its 2011 peak,” the report said.
“All these indicators point to one thing — that farmers are at a critical stage, worse than the situation of early 2000s that resulted in a spate of farmer suicides. The government must act before it is too late. It must analyse where it is going wrong in its strategies and immediately prepare a long-term plan to resolve the crisis,” Down To Earth editor Sunita Narain said.