Goaltide Daily News 2021
Indian farmers are now predominantly labourers, national survey
An average farming household in India earned Rs 10,218 per month in 2018-2019, up from Rs 6,426 a month in 2012-2013. This represents a nominal income growth of about 60 per cent over six years.
However, after adjusting for inflation using the rural consumer price index, farmers’ incomes have grown only 21 per cent in real terms in the period, according to a Business Standard analysis. India’s real gross domestic product (real size of the economy) grew 52 per cent in the same period.
But more importantly, the growth in income was such that it has probably made the average Indian farmer more of a labourer. He now earns more from wages than from cultivation, and this has happened for the first time ever.
In 2012-2013, an average Indian farmer earned Rs 3,081 per month from cultivation. This grew to just Rs 3,798 in 2018-2019. Income from wages, on the other hand, doubled from Rs 2,071 to Rs 4,063 in six years.
It must be noted that this is the net income, or the net earning after removing the pay-out expenses done on that activity. This data represents the state of farm households before the coronavirus pandemic.
That said, farming has taken a backseat in rural India at the aggregate level. While the number of farming households increased from 90 million to 93 million in six years, the number of families not engaged in farming rose from 66 million to nearly 80 million in the same period (2013-2019).
The findings for the period July 2018-June 2019 were presented in the report, Situation Assessment of Agricultural Households and Land and Holdings of Households in Rural India, by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. The income and expenditure of farmer households captured in this report by the National Sample Survey Office is one of the most credible nationwide official government data on farmers’ incomes in India.
The latest report also estimates imputed expenses of farm households, apart from pay-out expenses, which the previous reports of the series had not done. Adjusting for the imputed expenses, the net income from cultivation further drops to Rs 3,058 per month in 2018-2019.
An average farm household in India owed Rs 74,121 worth of debt in 2018-2019, compared to Rs 47,000 in 2012-2013. Thus, as income grew 60 per cent over six years, average debt, too, rose with a similar degree, by 57 per cent.
Indebtedness, or the share of farming households indebted, has remained steady. While it was 51.9 per cent in 2012-2013, the proportion marginally reduced to 50.2 per cent in 2018-2019.
Apart from income and debt, physical characteristics of Indian farming have also changed, and in some cases, the long term trend has continued. Disintegration of land parcels has continued unabated for two decades, the report shows. But more worryingly, landlessness has increased.
Average land held by a land owning farmer household has shrunk from 0.806 hectare in 2003 to 0.558 hectare in 2019. While the share of landless families among farming households had declined from 10 per cent in 2003 to 7.4 per cent in 2013, it has increased again over the period from 2013 to 2019, to 8.2 per cent.
The report defines a household as an agricultural household if it earns more than Rs 4,000 per year from agricultural activities.
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