Hit By Indebtedness and Suicides, Punjab Farmers Worry New Laws Will Make Things Worse -Pawanjot Kaur
Researchers have found that small and marginal farmers and Dalit landless labourers are worst affected by the region's agrarian distress.
Sangrur/Patiala (Punjab): In the villages of Punjab, strike a conversation on farming expenses with anyone, and they will say, “Karja tan hai hi (Of course, we have taken loans).” It’s these loans – from both institutional and non-institutional sources – that largely help the rural economy run in the state. But the thin line between one loan and a debt trap is crossed far too often – especially for small and marginal peasants, and Dalit landless agricultural labourers.
Professor of economics at the Punjabi University Patiala, Anupama, who has worked extensively on indebtedness and poverty among agricultural labourers and also published a book on the topic, told The Wire that one of the biggest reasons for high indebtedness in rural Punjab is the increasing gap between income and expenditure. For small and marginal farmers – especially ones from the Malwa region in Punjab – mostly, the only source of income is the agricultural produce sold at the minimum support price (MSP), at the government-regulated markets. But because the produce is usually not procured at the ‘guaranteed’ prices announced, farmers’ tend to face losses.
Anupama also explained that because the current MSP regime doesn’t cover the cost of farm labourers, as suggested by the Swaminathan Commission report, landed farmers end up paying very low wages to agricultural workers. This, in a domino effect, increases agricultural workers’ risks of indebtedness as well.
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TheWire.in, 30 December, 2020, https://thewire.in/agriculture/punjab-farmers-suicides-debt