Can we ever think of a situation when there will be no farmers, farm-lands and rice, wheat, pulses are being produced in large-scale industries? Obviously not. But such will be the situation if distress migration continues at the current pace. Upon hearing this term, the first question that arises in our mind is what is distress migration. It is that type of migration which may take place not out of choice but out of compulsion. This compulsion may be governed by socio-economic factors such as climatic distress or others. It is possible that a family has transitioned into poverty and has no opportunities for livelihood in the current location. Hence there will be no choice but to emigrate. It is possible that this switch to conditions of deprivation occurs slowly with increasing inequalities, erosion of real income or suddenly as a result of natural or man-made calamities.
The term has become a matter of grave concern in the agrarian scenario. More opportunities in urban areas can be considered as a prime reason for rural eviction. Better education, health and employment avenues in urban areas propel the farmers to migrate to cities and towns mainly to seek economic opportunities. People have pushed away from rural areas because of a lack of opportunities in that area. They are gradually pulled towards urban settlements. Gradually farmers are engaging themselves to non-farming occupations. The farmers are henceforth becoming an endangered class in our society. Recently I was utterly shocked by reading an article in the newspaper about Sanjay Sathe, a resident of Niphad tehsil in the Nashik district of Maharashtra, who produced 750kg of onion in this season but was offered a rate of Re 1 per kg in the Niphad wholesale market. Ultimately he had received Rs. 1074 for 750kg of onion. Out of frustration, he had donated the whole amount to the disaster relief fund of PMO as a protest.
From 1997 to 2004 in this time span, on an average, one farmer has attempted suicide in every 32 minutes. Such paltry returns are gradually pulling the farmers towards non-farming activities. Small scale farming is gradually declining at a galloping rate. In 2016, when I visited a local market, I found the price of pigeon-pea or tur dal to be Rs. 10000 per quintal but in 2017, the price has drastically dropped to Rs. 3500 per quintal. Maintaining a minimal livelihood out of farming has become an elusive event nowadays. A survey done by the Centre for Study of Developing Societies at Delhi depicts a full scenery of Indian farming. According to this survey report, 76% of the farmers across 18states of India prefer to do some other work other than farming. 62% of them were not aware of the concept of minimum support price due to the prevalence of various corruptions and the wrong policy.
The government has recently adopted a major initiative of waiving the loans of the farmers. But I personally condemn this futile attempt as only 19% of the farmers do want to continue farming in spite of getting a subsidy. In 1983, the percentage of people depending on agriculture was 68% but in 2004-05 this percentage has become 57%. Alongside job opportunities in large scale industrial sector has increased by only 2%. So where will this large no. of unemployed people go? In my native village, in the last 5years, I saw a large number of people migrating to Kerala, Chennai, Mumbai, Saudi Arabia. Majority engage themselves in the construction sectors as laborer or goldsmiths in Mumbai.
Now the question is how to safeguard farming society?. As an agriculturist, we have to think of a solution to this problem. Conservation of farmers and farming is essential otherwise we will be left with no food at all. According to me, the advancement of cooperative sectors can minimize this problem to some extent. Production of cooperative society and self-help groups in rural areas can curtail the economic obstructions of the farmers. Farmers must play a direct role in the market. There shall be no middle man. All profits must go to the farmers only. I strongly oppose the open window policy of the government for which our farmers are facing an unhealthy competition. Direct foreign investment is choking our farming economy.
Moreover, the prevailing unethical corruption in the agro-corporate sectors must be put to an end. Proper support from the government and urban society can restore the farming system in rural areas to its original enthusiasm only then we can see our country with a bright future ahead where there will be sufficient food production, no poverty, no suicide attempt by farmers. After all, we cannot eat money.