Hyderabad: Economist and political strategist Mohan Guruswamy and political economist Parakala Prabhakar, as part of the ‘Deccan Dialogues’ series, discussed problems faced by farmers and identified the areas which need to be improved upon if farming was to remain sustainable in India.
Prabhakar said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had claimed that farmer incomes would be doubled by 2022, but that had not happened. “Yes there was a pandemic which set things back, but have we started on the journey? Farmers are not really prospering, the farm sector is in distress, and we still hear of farmer suicides,” he said during the discussion at at Guruswamy Centre in West Marredpally.
Guruswamy said the incomes would not rise unless a large number of people moved from farming into the secondary and tertiary sectors, and pointed out that this was not happening as not enough jobs were being created in these sectors.
Prabhakar then said that while food production had increased to a great extent since the 1960s, farmers had become more impoverished during the period. Guruswamy said this was because farmers had to pay international market rates for anything they purchse but get the lowest rates in the world for their produce.
“To resolve this, we should reduce the number of agriculture producers, and make their holdings bigger so that they can hold on for better prices. Today, the farmers are dependent either on the Food Corporation of India or local saviours, and that has to change,” the author said.
Speaking about local moneylenders, Prabhakar said even if a farmer wanted to modernise his farm, he was denied capital by the banking system and had to mainly depend on local moneylenders. Typically, he said, these moneylenders buy the produce from the farmers for cheap when the latter are in distress.
Guruswamy responded to this, saying, “The local moneylender or ‘seth’ in popular imagination is the enemy and has been completely demonised. But it is he who sustains the rural economy with credit. The agriculture economy is completely distorted. The only people who get loans from banks are large farmers, and loans are written off so there is no money to lend.”
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