Majority of farmers in India are landless

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Majority of farmers in India are landless

Friday, 15 January 2021 | MANAS JENA

The land and livestock holding survey conducted in the 70th round of the National Sample Survey in year 2013 reveals that the average size of land per household ownership holding was 0.592 hectare in rural India.The share of land owned by different social groups shows that it was 9.23 per cent for Scheduled Castes (SCs), 13.06 per cent for Scheduled Tribes(STs), 45.68 per cent for Other Backward Class (OBCs) and 32.03 per cent for others out of total 92.369 million hectares distributed among 20.06 per cent SC households, 11.89 per cent ST households, 44.82 per cent OBC households and 23.23 per cent for others.

It further says that the average area of land owned per household was 0.272 hectare for SCs, 0.603 hectare for OBCs, 0.650 hectare for STs and 0.816 hectare for others. Within the social groups, only 0.03 percent of SCs and STs, 0.23 percent of OBCs and 0.55 percent have large holding of more than 10 hectare of land where as marginal and small holding of all social groups together  constitute 85 per cent  and medium and semi-medium constitute about  7 per cent only. The highest proportion of households belongs to the marginal and small holding and the lowest proportion of 0.24 percent households belongs to the large holding which is common across all social groups. The report says more percentage of STs are self-employed in agriculture in comparison to other social groups.

Land ownership has a strong link with agriculture production and the data shows still agriculture sector of India is mostly dominated by small and marginal holding owned farmers living in rural India, who  are the real cultivators.

These farmers mostly belong to the marginalized social groups. The section of farmers mostly cultivates their own land and also takes up sharecropping to sustain. But unfortunately most of the input subsidies for land development, purchasing agricultural appliances, fertilizer, pesticide, low interest credit, insurance, compensation against loss and damage are availed by the land owning rich farmers.

Sale of agriculture produce of a major section of small farmers has been a major problem and they have been deprived of getting fair MSP and a host of other benefits available for rich farmers. So also the problem of storage of surplus produces persists.

With increase in input cost and wage rate in non-agriculture sectors it has been increasingly difficult for the small holding farmers to continue self –employment in agriculture. During last few years a majority of distressed farmers those who committed suicide in Odisha were sharecroppers and small and marginal farmers. So in the near future it may not be economically viable to become self –employed in agriculture with small holding. The increase in huge subsidies to the farmers will have a wider ramification over public spending and lead to increase in direct tax burden on all section of people. The continuation of a vast section of people in traditional agriculture sector symbolizes the features of a backward economy and subsistence living.

It is a fact that the backwardness of Odisha and a vast majority of the marginalized sections' underdevelopment lies with overdependence on agriculture sector in the absence of adequate avenues in non agricultural sector such as manufacturing, industry, mining, tourism, communication, service , heath, education, banking, finance, insurance etc as there is limited scope for employment in the sector.The traditional agriculture system needs to be changed but still it has been continuing with its feudal character which is quite exploitative based on caste based social hegemonies in rural areas.

 Most of the land owning caste belongs to the socially dominant groups whereas a vast majority of agricultural labourers and sharecroppers, small and marginal farmers are from SC, ST and OBC communities. These sections of people are over represented in agriculture but underrepresented in non-agriculture sectors.

They continue to suffer in agriculture with low wage and without any type of social security during old age.  Underdeveloped agriculture sector has failed to provide employment throughout the year which is a major cause of distress seasonal migration of agricultural labourers. The inhuman suffering and plight of migrant labourers is known to everyone but nothing has been done to change their misery and continued unending suffering.

The so-called farmer movements never demand for increase in wage of agricultural labourers and for any kind of benefit for them to improve their social and economic condition and quality of life as they continue to live without homestead land and basic amenities for life such as housing and drinking water. Rather many farmer leaders blame the increase in agriculture wage as a cause of agriculture distress in States such as Odisha.

A majority of agricultural labourers belong to Dalit communities who are still untouchables in rural villages and deprived of human dignity and continue to face all kinds of social humiliation and atrocities in the hands of land owning dominant castes. Social prestige of Dalit agricultural labourers has never been an issue being addressed in farmers movement. Though these sections of rural Dalit labourers are the real cultivators since generations, they suffer apathy and exploitation of feudal economic system.

It is expected that the farmer movement now underway in Delhi must take into its fold interest of all sections of people engaged in agriculture and not just the benefit of rich farmers.

It is also time to look into the future of agriculture sector without self-glorification of farmer along with use of science and technology in agriculture to increase production not just for domestic consumption but also for global market with competitive trade and above all  quality employment for upcoming rural  youths.


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