There are 196 countries in the world. But in no country, other than India, a farmer is coerced to commit suicide for financial bankruptcy. In the year 1914, 1109 farmers committed suicide in Maharashtra. More than 100 suicides are reported in Jan-Mar 2015. We have similar figures from other states. More than 2,97,000 farmers have committed suicide in India since 1995.
Magsaysay award winner journalist P. Sainath blamed rising farmer suicides on erratic monsoon outstanding loans, rising debt, low crop yield, poor procurement rate of crops and successive crop failure; also linked the agriculturists’ woes to a depleted water table, unsuitable macro-economic policies with respect to taxes, non-farm loans and faulty prices of import and export. A small farmer, having a small piece of land – say, less than five acres, can hardly produce sufficient for food and clothing for himself and his family. He is solely dependent on rain. For seeds and manures he borrows money. But when nature goes against him – he does not produce anything to survive leave aside repayment of loan and interest.
How can the Government, Society, help him? Exemption of repayment of bank dues? Is there any solution? I suggest two alternative 1. Co-operative Farming 2. Corporate Farming. I do not favor Co-operative Farming. This experiment was done in Maharashtra for sugar industry and it miserably failed. It created Sakhar Samrats, but the farmer, who cultivates cane, remained poor. In spite of collective bargaining for rate, he can barely recover his costs.
I, therefore, suggest Corporate Farming as a solution to the problem. A Company incorporated for the Main Objective of using land for agriculture, will be able to function much better in the interest of poor farmer as well as in the interest of country, by contributing to our GDP to a large extent. The Company will buy land from the farmer, giving him fair price. It will also offer him employment with fixed monthly salary, with many other/fringe benefits. He will get casual leave, sick leave, earned leave and a weekly off, in addition to the holidays on festival/religious days. The company will build housing colonies providing with modern shelter on his head, clean drinking water and electricity. (perhaps wi-fi also) The company will also build a school for farmers’ children upto SSC.
The company will employ qualified teachers. The children will not have to work, they will get free education and later go to cities for higher education. They can aspire to become doctors, engineers, accountants or business managers. The company will provide full medical benefits, employing qualified doctors and, in case of serious illness or surgery, provide the patient treatment in renowned hospitals in the nearby city. With fixed hours of work, an employee can get ample time for leisure and recreation. He will get one month salary as bonus to celebrate festivals. The employees will have the liberty to form a union, for collective bargaining, increasing his emoluments periodically to withstand rising prices.
The company will dig wells, borewells, buy canal water and reduce the dependency on rain. It will harvest rain water using modern techniques, such as the ones developed by Israel. The company will employ agricultural scientists, who will study the soil conditions, water availability and decide what should be produced on the land and what manures should be used to enhance production. Apart from seeds (rice, wheet, millets, barley) the company will also produces legumes, vegetables, fruits, flowers for which the land is most suitable. Dairy and poultry can generate ample cash. The company will use machines (mechanized farming) thus reducing manual labour. The employee farmer will not be required to do harsh physical labour. His job will require skill to operate the machines, thus providing him job satisfaction. Modern scientific methods and use of modern technology will result in enhanced productivity. With increased production, the company can provide better contribution to national GDP. If the company is public limited, it will allot shares to employees and also some stock options.
I have no doubt that, with professional management using modern management techniques, the company will make good profit and employees will get dividend like other share-holders. Yes, I am aware of the criticism. The most common criticism is that mechanized farming will reduce the need of manpower and the company will not provide job to every farmer whose land it purchases. It is true that the company will require less personnel for farming operations. But still the company can provide jobs to each and every person. Those who are educated can become teachers, or clerks, accountants, computer operators, etc. for the office work. People are required for laboratory work, to assist the scientists; to help doctors. Maintenance of equipment. Maintenance of office, lab etc. washing and cleaning; Maintenance of wells and canals – all these areas require manpower. The people will have to be trained for these jobs. There are problems, but every problem has one or more solutions. Somebody expressed the possibility that the company may sell off the land and leave the farmers out of work, jobless – with no land to till. But while giving permission to do the business the Government can lay down the conditions to prohibit such action.
In India the main contribution to GDP is from agriculture sector, though the arable land is very poorly managed. India has 15.735 crore sq Km of arable land (about 52.92 %). If this land is put to optimum utilization, its contribution to GDP will multiply. I have expressed my opinion. I invite comments/criticism from the learned members of this group.