Why is agricultural growth nosediving?
Agriculture plays a vital role in India’s economy, the sector accounts for 15 per cent of India’s gross domestic product (GDP) and has over 58 per cent of rural households dependent on it. In a bid to revive agriculture growth and improve farm income, the Union budget 2016-17 focused on the farm sector. The finance minister raised the overall budget for the agriculture sector by over 44%, from Rs 24,909 crore in 2015-16 to Rs 35,984 crore in 2016-17. But despite all the efforts, agriculture growth rate in India seems to nosedive. In Goa we have seen that agriculture has been on a steady decline. In the mid-60’s, nearly 70 per cent of the Goan population was directly or indirectly involved in agriculture, today less than half choose to be in this profession.
So, why is it, despite the government allocating huge sums of money to the sector, and doling out farm subsidies to encourage farmers and farming, there are not many takers? It’s not rocket science to gauge, why Goans are leaving farming to take up white collar jobs in Gulf countries or onboard ships. The cost of cultivating fields is accelerating at a tremendous pace. To add to this, agricultural produce does not get its due price and farmers are being forced to decide between selling their land or to let it lie barren. There is no way for farmers to get out of this vicious cycle that they find themselves in.
I have ancestral fields in Taleigao, and cultivate around 12,000 plus square metres of land. In May 2011, I had applied for a subsidy for a well which I received only in March 2012 after a ten-month wait. For pumps, machinery, fencing etc a farmer has to wait between five to eight months to receive the subsidies. For me, agriculture is not my primary source of income and hence I was able to withstand the wait. But what about the marginal and small farmers? Who invest their money into their field and then have a long-wait to get the subsidy. This wait is like a cruel joke on them and they cannot prepare for the next sowing season.