ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

20 December 2001

INDIA -- Farmers under severe debt in areas that witnessed Green Revolution

By Jaspal Singh Sidhu

New Delhi, Dec 16 (UNI) The farmers of northern states that grew bumper crops during the Green Revolution are now reeling under heavy debt, finding themselves incapable of changing the dominant cropping pattern that is proving a big drag on their economy as well as soil fertility.

Though the output in the post-Green Revolution era is still high in these areas, profits are declining because of rising cost of inputs and inadequate increase in the price of outputs, according to recently-conducted studies in two select pockets of Punjab and Western Uttar Pradesh.Both pockets, which present the same family land-ownership pattern, small fragmented holdings and intensive cultivation, has shown indebtedness of farmers crossing 90 per cent.

Besides, the increasingly dependance on tube wells for irrigation has led to over-exploitation of ground water, the level of which is continuously falling. One of the "'Diagnostic Studies"' was conducted by the National Centre for Agricultural Economics and Policy Research (NACP) in association with the Society for Education and Social Welfare, an NGO, in Muzaffarnagar District of Western U.P.--one of the most agriculturally-productive areas of the Indo-Gangetic Plains of India.

The study team of farm experts surveyed 150 farming households in several villages including Allum, Bhaneda, Bharsi, Kaniyan and Nala. The other study was conducted by CRRID, an NGO, with experts drawn from Punjab Agriculture University, Ludhiana, and Institute of Economic Growth, New Delhi, and with active association of panchayats in villages including Baluana, Bucho Kalan, Poohla, Rai Khana, Mari, Doomwali and Pathrala. The survey covered 308 farming households.Both studies, encompassing a long stretch of contiguous Green Revolution area covering Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh, however, draw almost similar conclusions on availability of farming information and technical know-how to farmers by their governments. For the choice and use of inputs, the farmers depend on "dealers" (private traders) with no or inadequate availability of information from their state governments on technology, prices, selection of right inputs, value-addition, alternative crops and enterprises, credit and market channels.The farmers are facing various constrains which include lack of adequte bank credit, adulteration of fertilisers and pesticides, and inferior quality of seeds. The governments also provide either no or ineffective mechanism to monitor or regulate the deteriorating quality of seeds and inputs which contribute to declining profits in farming.Against the backdrop of farming communities fast running into economic crisis that could result in social unrest in rural areas sustaining 60 per cent of the population, the two studies see only certain alterantives left for the state governments. These are to help and encourage the farmers form self-help groups relevent to the regions in garnering credit, to go for cooperative marketing of milk, to operate and maintain canals, to go for collective purchase of select seeds, pesticides and other inputs, and to adopt advanced farm operations.Since the cultivation on small holdings is becoming unviable, the voluntary groupings could pool in land and infrastruture resources to reduce cost of farming and transportation of goods, and create adequate capacity for supporting research as being done by sugarcane cooperatives in Maharashtra.According to the Western U.P survey, sugarcane and wheat account for 69 per cent of cropped area with average yield for sugarcane at about 69 tonnes a hectare and for wheat at three tonnes a hectare. But in select areas yield touched 75 tonnes for sugarcane, a cash crop, and 4.3 tonnes for wheat. Tube wells accounted for 68 per cent of irrigated area, leaving canal irrigation network deteriorating. Tube well operation cost on diesel sets has become expensive with erratic electric supply. Fertiliser consumption is 158.74 Kg, much higher than the overall UP average of 101 kg per hectare. The NPK ratio has been deteriorating, with the ratio being 8.8:1.1:0.1 in 1998 against the recommended 4:2:1. Thus the soil is getting increasingly deficient in Phosphorous and Potassium. Small and marginal farmers account for 44 per cent of the net sown area. Their number has swelled from 72 per cent of total small holdings in 1970-71 to 82 per cent in 1990-91. Dairy is an important activity supplementing agricultural income, particularly of small farmers. The educational level of majority of farmers is up to school. The average size of sample household is 1.42 hectares only. According to the Punjab survey, farmers are switching to paddy-wheat rotation after successive failure of their cash crop of cotton in the late 1990s. This crop rotation is fast eating away the soil fertility--the process accelerating with unbalanced use of fertiliser nutrients. The farmers use unrecommended, uncertified and locally-branded seeds of cotton, the area under which has shrunk considerably. They, however, choose pesticides on the recommendation of dealers with appropriate doses after identification of the pest. American Bollworm, a pest which has developed resistance to all the pesticides, is proving deadly for cotton crop in the area. Cotton prices witnessed sharp flucuations and the produce is sold to private agencies through commission agents (known as Ahrtiya) who are also the source of private loans for the farmers but charge higher interest rates up to 30 to 40 per cent. The survey found that all the 308 sample farm households are under debt of varying degrees. No crop insurance is available for cotton. Repeated failure of the Cotton crop has led to the mounting indebtedness with little loan-repayment capacity which often make the farmers desperate, some even resorting to suicide. The average wheat output has been recorded at more than four tonnes a hectare, but it is not sufficient to offset the loss of the cash crop.However, cotton's replacement with paddy is sustaining the farmers. But crop cycle of wheat-paddy is proving a big drag on scant and costly irrigation resources and land fertility.
PLEASE SUPPORT INDIA'S OPPOSITION TO GE COTTON & SCIENCE FRAUD ­ more details on who to contact (including corrections)



OR Click on the link to sign the 'Devinder Sharma/Making India Green' petition on this:

You can also put in extra e-mail address when sending the peition ­ see below

Others you can contact:

*Mr Ajit Singh, Agriculture Minister:
Fax: +91 11 3386004 / +91 11 3384555

*Hukum Dev Narain, Minister of State for Agriculture:
Fax: +91 11 3386098

*Shri T. R. Baalu, Union Cabinet Minister (Environment & Forests)
Fax +91 11 3354590 / +91 11 4362222

*P.V.Jayakrishnan, Secretary of State for Environment & Forests:
Fax +91 114362016

Online email to Office of the Prime Minister (Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee)

*Call for an investigation into the science fraud perpetuated by the Dept of Biotechnology in their handling of the trials to date and their attempt to push through approval without due process. For example, field trials for Bt cotton have consistently been sown as much as two months late when the attack of the American bollworm, the relevant insect pest for Bt cotton, is in the first two months of the crop being sown! The entire insect profile affecting the crop is thus favourably changed and the resulting data has been hyped as showing positive results. This amounts to a scientific fraud.

*Support proper research prior to commercialisation. The approval of GE cotton should not be rushed through without time to assess the potentially disastrous environmental, socio-economic and health impact for India. It could be a death trap for farmers and India.

*Point out that these crops will not benefit small farmers and landless workers but only destroy their jobs and increase the gap between rich and poor


For more on this see:
India's Prime Minister warned over GE "scientific scam"


ngin bulletin archive