India’s first semi-high speed train, Gatiman Express, which is also India’s fastest train till date, made a lot of buzz when it was first inaugurated in April 2016. On the other hand, more than 400 farmers from Maharashtra were reported to have committed suicide within the first four months of 2016. Is this incongruity leading to a suicidal future?
Amidst all reforms, the fact that rains unchanged is that India is still an agrarian economy, employing about 50% of the workforce. With more than 70% of the population still residing in rural areas, there is tremendous pressure on the rural lands and farmers.
Although the contribution of agricultural sector to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is declining, agriculture continues to be the major source of livelihood for millions of Indians.
The deteriorating health of Indian agriculture is vividly evident from the growing number of farmer suicides, not only in Maharashtra but also in other Indian states. More than often, farmers heavily rely on Monsoons for irrigating their fields as the lack of finance does not permit them to install modern irrigational facilities. Dependence on monsoons which are highly erratic and unpredictable, lead to crop failure, and consequently, to suicides.
The presence of middlemen in the agricultural market makes it seemingly obvious that the high prices charged from the customers for the produce, do not reach the farmers. As a result, the customers are cheated, the farmers are exploited and the middlemen are benefitted. Moreover, the inflationary pressure has forced up the prices of farm inputs, increasing the cost of production. The dearth of proper transportation facilities makes it difficult for the farmers to ensure that their produce reaches the market on a timely basis.
Indian farmers are also caught up in the vicious circle of poverty. Exorbitant interest rates cause farmers to borrow further to service the debt, thus making them debt- ridden. The Government has initiated several schemes where the farmers can get loans at nominal rates of interest. But hurdles such as corruption, poor dissemination of information and improper follow-up procedures end up in the failure of the schemes.
Being a developing nation, India cannot overlook the withering condition of our cultivators. It is important to make technological advancements and strive to be at par with the developed countries. However, it is equally important to ensure that the roots of the Indian economy, the agricultural sector, also leaps forward at an equivalent pace so as to enable all-sector development.
Attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the sphere of manufacturing and for the development of bullet trains has been the prime focus of the Government. Undoubtedly, this has boosted the global image of India, with India being at the zenith in the list of investment destinations. As much as it is overwhelming to see India as a favorite investment hub, it is all the more disheartening to know about growing rural distress, accompanied by suicides.
As Indians will soon get to enjoy the thrill of traveling underwater in the high-speed Mumbai- Ahmadabad corridor, let us hope that our farmers too get to relish the taste of pouring investments.