Op-ed discusses reasons behind farmer agitations across country and prevalent rural urban divide. Points can come in handy in mains answers related to this topic.
From UPSC perspective, following things are important:
Prelims level: National Sample Survey reports, MGNREGA, Minimum Support Prices
Mains level: Rural urban divide, issues with MSP and solutions to this issue
- The recent mobilisation of peasants is a fall-out of socio-economic trends related to India’s post-1991 growth pattern
- Urban India was the main winner of the post-1991 growth pattern, and rural India lagged behind
- The best data documenting these trajectories can be found in the National Sample Survey reports
What has caused this Mobilization?
(a) Widening Disparity:
- In 1993-1994, the monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE) in rural India was Rs 281, while the MPCE in urban India was Rs 458 (No need to remember exact data, you can quote it in mains as Urban MPCE was twice as rural)
- By 2007-2008: By that year, the average MPCE in rural India was Rs 772 (a 174 per cent increase over 1993-1994) while that of urban India had increased to Rs 1,472 (The gap still existed)
- The gap diminished somewhat between 2007-2008 and 2011-2012, with rural MPCE touching Rs 1,430 and the urban MPCE rising to 2,630 (But this was only marginal cover up)
Reasons for this disparity:
- This disparity is partly due to the slow growth of agriculture over the last decade
- Also due to government’s lack of interest in agriculture— declining investments in irrigation, diminishing fertilizer subsidies
(b) Role of MGNREGA:
- The MGNREGA is primarily meant for poor farmers
- The farmers who are not the scheme’s main beneficiaries have suffered from two years of drought
(c) Demonetisation effect:
- Peasants desperate for cash had to sell their produce at very low prices to traders
- They also ran into heavy debts with moneylenders charging an interest rate of more than 20 per cent; many were forced to sell their lands
What could have been done?
- Government should have maintained the Minimum Support Prices (MSPs) at a good level
- Especially the MSPs of pulses, in which poor farmers specialized.