The state of farmers

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Context: While the farmers demand a repeal of the three new farm laws, the government insists the reforms are “farmer-friendly”.

What is the aim and impact of the new farm laws?
  • Aim of farm laws: The farm laws seek to introduce the neoliberal notion of “choice” into the production and sale of agricultural produce through deregulation. It tries to give a push to private traders and agricultural corporations.
  • Impact on small farmers: Small and marginal farmers, a section that constitutes 85 per cent of farm landholdings are likely to be worst hit, with the lowest bargaining power and highest level of precarity.
What are the problems faced by farmers?
  • The scale of land acquisition: It has increased exponentially since the nineties, with the estimate for all displaced people up from approximately 25-30 million by 1990 to 60 million by 2004.
  • Policy framework: A policy framework shaped by the needs of capital which needs land but not the people, creates a system that renders survival cultivators unnecessary or surplus to development initiatives of the state.
  • Survival cultivation: Where many small and marginal farmers engage in survival cultivation, sale of agricultural produce is limited to the need for cash or an assured surplus.
    • In 2018-19, the consumption of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium fertiliser in Maharashtra, UP, Assam and Jharkhand was 125.95 kg/hectare (ha), 170.09 kg/ha, 73.69 kg/ha and 59.79 kg/ha respectively (Agricultural Statistics at a Glance, 2019).
  • The state-wise scale of indebtedness of agricultural households: The All-India Report on Agriculture Census 2010-11 shows the level of indebtedness toebtedness to be 57.3 per cent in Maharashtra , 43.8 per cent in UP , 17.5 per cent in Assam and 28.9 per cent in Jharkhand.
    • These figures are representative of the increased cash dependence of agriculture in commercially significant states as Maharashtra and UP, and a significantly lower level of debt in states like Jharkhand and Assam.
  • Land arrangements: Several informal land arrangements are being stripped away constantly, leaving subsistence peasants more dependent on cash for meeting everyday requirements of life and propelling them deeper into an unequal market that constantly reproduces their position at the margins.
Mention a few state policies that seeks to establish powers of state over land?
  • The new Land Acquisition Law 2013: It has introduced significant changes from the colonial 1894 Law, it serves to firmly keep in place the principle of eminent domain by which the state retains excessive powers over land and, thereby, facilitates the process of land acquisition in the long run.
  • New strategy: The constant expansion of forest lands is itself the latest strategy to bypass mandated procedures for land acquisition under the new Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013.
  • The latest Environmental Impact Assessment Draft Notification 2020: It seeks to facilitate ease of doing business by clearing “obstacles” for businesses such that permissions are simpler to get and grievances harder to file.
Way forward

For a healthy farm sector, the state must strengthen and protect the position of the cultivator.

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