From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Not much
Mains level : Paper 3- Agriculture reforms
The article analyses the regional variation in the problems and issues of the farmer and how it has implications for the reforms in agriculture.
An issue of estimating the number of farmers in India
- Almost 111 million are registered for the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-Kisan).
- Other than some categories being barred from PM-Kisan benefits, not every eligible farmer has necessarily registered for PM-Kisan.
- The last Agriculture Census in 2015-16 gave us 146 million holdings.
- If the agricultural landholding is conditional on being a farmer, apart from a possible further increase since 2015-16, 146 million is possibly the upper bound.
- Every definition of “farmer” is not contingent on the ownership of land.
- The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act of 2001 is an example where status as a farmer depends on cultivating land (or supervising cultivation), not owning it.
- That issue was also flagged by the National Commission on Farmers, such as in the Draft National Policy for Farmers (2006), where “farmers” included agricultural labourers, sharecroppers, tenants and so on.
Issues with making landholding prerequisite for being a farmer
- The Committee on State Agrarian Relations and the Unfinished Task in Land Reforms (2009) noted that “the Survey and Settlement Operations in the Permanently Settled Areas have not been taken up and where they have been taken up, for instance in Bihar, they tend to never conclude”
- The last extensive survey and settlement in India was conducted two to three decades prior to Independence.
- Post-Independence, some states have not undertaken a revisional survey and settlement so far.
- There have been improvements since 2009 and the Department of Land Resources has a Digital India Land Records Modernisation Programme (DILRMP).
- Punjab and Haryana rank 16th and 18th respectively in Records and Services Index (LRSI).
- Gujarat, West Bengal and Tripura score high on this Index (over 90 per cent).
Variation across the States
- If land records are in this condition, some farmers will conceivably be excluded from the farmer definition.
- With diverse and heterogenous agriculture, all farmers will not have identical views.
- 2015-16 Agricultural Census tells us that most operational holdings are in UP, Bihar, Maharashtra and MP, in that order.
- The highest operated areas are in Rajasthan, Maharashtra, UP and MP, in that order.
- 86.1 per cent of holdings are small and marginal (less than 2 hectares) and only 0.6 per cent are large (more than 10 hectares).
The face of Indian agriculture has changed and is no longer what it was in the Green Revolution days, centred on Punjab, Haryana and western UP. Farmers, and governments, in Bihar and Kerala, don’t want APMCs, nor do UP, MP, Gujarat and Karnataka. There is no evidence that this has made those farmers worse off.