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Posts Tagged ‘cultivator

Debt and kisan households

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rg_cultivator_hhs_debt_201612For the 21 larger states, this is the picture of how much average debt a cultivator household has incurred, and how many amongst cultivator households are in debt.

The data I have used for this chart are taken from the report, ‘Household Indebtedness in India’, which is based on the 70th Round of the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India, and collected during January to December 2013.

The states are plotted on average debt of such households, in lakh rupees on the left scale, and the proportion of such households, as a percentage of all such households, on the horizontal scale. The size of the circles are relative and based on the amount of average debt.

The average amount of debt per cultivator household seen in this chart is for most of the 21 larger states, lower than the overall rural household average debt of Rs 1,03,457. However the cultivator household is one of six types of rural household (the categories are: self-employed in agriculture, self-employed in non-agriculture, regular wage/salary earning, casual labour in agriculture, casual labour in non-agriculture, others). About 31.4% of all rural households are in debt.

The chart shows that cultivator households in Punjab and Kerala carry the highest amounts of debt, and that a highest percentage of cultivator households carrying debt are in Telengana and Andhra Pradesh. There are two distinct groups. One group of nine states occupies the right and most of the vertical area of the chart. The second group is of 12 states clustered towards the lower left corner of the chart panel.

This difference describes regional variation. In the first group are all the southern states. In the second are all the eastern and central states. Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand cultivator households exhibit the greatest similarity, with average debt of under Rs 40,000 and with less than 35% of cultivator households carrying debt.

Bihar, West Bengal and Odisha are likewise similar, their average debt being less than Rs 20,000. Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand cultivator households bear the lowest average debt and less than one in five of such households is in debt.

These are the broad brush strokes of debt amongst cultivator households in the 21 major states painted by the NSSO’s ‘Household Indebtedness in India’ report. A more detailed examination of such debt, and also the debt of the other kinds of rural households, will give us a deeper understanding of the subject.

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Written by makanaka

December 16, 2016 at 09:24

Counting the great Indian agricultural mosaic

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There is not a ‘bigha‘ of Bharat that has not been cultivated, used as orchard, or as pasture, or at one time or another over the centuries, times tumultuous or peaceable, belonged in part or wholly to a nearby ‘agrahara‘. The measurement of our land is a science that is as ancient as are the sciences of tending to and cultivating the land, and what today we reckon in hectares and acres (not ours these measures, but left behind and used through administrative inertia) were counted, re-counted, assessed and taxed as being a certain number of guntha, bigha, biswa, kanal, marla, sarsaai or shatak. In these wondrously named parcels of land – bunded and their perimeters shaded, so that the kisans of old could sit under a leafy canopy and enjoy a mid-day meal and a short snooze – grew our foodgrain.

There are 138.35 million operational holdings in India. (Uttar Pradesh has 23.33 million, Bihar 16.19 million, Maharashtra 13.70 million, Andhra Pradesh 13.18 million.) The small and marginal holdings taken together (below 2 hectares) constitute 85.01% of all holdings. This treemap represents the number of holdings, relative in size to each other, in each category of land holding area.

There are 138.35 million operational holdings in India. (Uttar Pradesh has 23.33 million, Bihar 16.19 million, Maharashtra 13.70 million, Andhra Pradesh 13.18 million.) The small and marginal holdings taken together (below 2 hectares) constitute 85.01% of all holdings. This treemap represents the number of holdings, relative in size to each other, in each category of land holding area.

Whether Gupta or Vijaynagar, Hoysala or Kakatiya, Mughal or British colonial, these fields every so often received visitors, at times unwelcome but usually businesslike, for the Bharat of old and of medieval times alike was profoundly productive, and these officials had much ground to cover. In later eras they were known as tehsildar, naib tehsildar, kanungo and patwari and they prepared records such as the ‘shajra nasab‘ (always with the help of a typically tattered ‘jamabandi‘), followed by the ‘khatauni‘ – a laborious task that required the patwari to measure each ‘khasra‘ and appropriately mark it with pencil (a rough marking, to be inked only after final tallying) on the ‘mussavi‘. And to be administratively infallible, for land revenue and land settlement is the most serious of a government’s business, the kanungo re-measured the land and added his observation to the ‘mussavi‘.

And so it went, from one panchayat to the next, from one circle to another, from one tehsil (or mandal or taluka) to the next, passing under the tired eyes and across the cluttered desks of assistant settlement officer (where is the inspection diary, these officers would ask), then to the assistant collector (grades II and I) and then to the spacious chambers (supplied with punkahs and water coolers) of the district collector.

The total cultivated area is 159.59 million hectares, the average size of an operational holding has declined to 1.15 hectare in 2010-11 as compared with 1.23 hectare in 2005-06. (Rajasthan has 21.14 million hectare, Maharashtra has 19.77 million, Uttar Pradesh 17.62 million, Madhya Pradesh 15.84 million.). This treemap represents the cultivated agricultural area, relative in size to each other, in each category of land holding.

The total cultivated area is 159.59 million hectares, the average size of an operational holding has declined to 1.15 hectare in 2010-11 as compared with 1.23 hectare in 2005-06. (Rajasthan has 21.14 million hectare, Maharashtra has 19.77 million, Uttar Pradesh 17.62 million, Madhya Pradesh 15.84 million.). This treemap represents the cultivated agricultural area, relative in size to each other, in each category of land holding.

It was so then, in the time of my grand-parents (two sets, at opposite ends of British India), and it was so in the time of their great grand-parents. During my lifetime it has come to be called – this detailed measuring of our land with a benign view to assessing fairly – the agricultural census, and it is the most recent one, 2010-11, which gives us many points to ponder, but is somewhat lacking when it comes to the labyrinthine histories of the administering of what for so many centuries has been measured and recorded.

Nonetheless the Agricultural Census of India 2010-11 serves us with a commentary that is contemporaneous and informative, for its primary fieldwork consisted of “retabulating the operational holding-wise information contained in the basic village records” which “would be done by the village accountant”, a gentleman (usually, for accounting has not experienced the gender equalising which panchayats have) known in different states by different names – he is the patwari but he is also the lekhapal, the talathi or the karnam. His work (always in progress, just as the seasons are) is supervised by the revenue inspectors.

These worthies (not as dour, I can assure you, as their title suggests, for they are just as often cultivators themselves, or veterinarians, and even ayurvedic practitioners) contribute to the most important part of our agricultural census, and that is the preparation of the list of operational holdings. It is a task far too wide and vast and complex for any revenue inspector, however dedicated and well disposed towards both the physical and mathematical aspects of it, for this officer must examine all the survey numbers in the basic village record, the ‘khasra register’ (or any other equivalent local record), classify the survey numbers held by operational land holders, often cross-reference this tentative list with other village records (like the ‘khatauni‘) which names the cultivators. Many consultations ensue, a few arguments, and a considerable amount of cross-confirmation in dusty stacks and mouldy cupboards.

This is the historical milieu to which our agricultural census belongs. We should savour it, for it is a unique undertaking, just as much as each of our thousands of varieties of rice (‘dhanyam‘ it was in the time of the ‘agraharas‘ and it is so today too) – the careful and ritual counting of the great Indian agricultural mosaic.

Where India’s farmers have gone

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Can you spot the farmers, the cultivators, the growers, the agricultural labourers? A crowded street in central Bangalore.

Can you spot the farmers, the cultivators, the growers, the agricultural labourers? A crowded street in central Bangalore.

The change in the number of cultivators and agricultural labourers in India, as recently provided by Census 2011, is a major indicator of a state’s treatment of its crop-growing communities and its approach to land use. It is usually difficult to spot long-term trends in economic activity, in particular that of agriculture and food production, in the districts – a condition that the state does little to rectify.

Even so, these difficulties are eased to an extent by reading the census data together with other data – in particular land use and major crops. These should help us recognise the growing impacts on food security caused by rampant urbanisation and the steady erosion of the population of cultivators. [Please see the complete article on Macroscan.]

To gain a better understanding of the changes in the numbers of cultivators and agricultural labour (marginal or main) it is useful to read them with the change in the number of agricultural holdings in India over the same ten years, and this is provided, over exactly the same decade, by the Agricultural Census.

Changes in the populations of farmers in the 20 major states between the two censuses.

Changes in the populations of farmers in the 20 major states between the two censuses.

The last complete Agricultural Census is for the year 2005-06. The next is for 2010-11, and ‘All India Report on Number and Area of Operational Holdings (provisional)’, Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture (2012), from which we have the national and state level provisional data.

This tells us that the number of ‘operational holdings’ in India rose over a ten year period from 119.9 million to 137.7 million (up 14.8%). Whereas in three categories of the size of holdings (large, medium and semi-medium) the number of operational holdings dropped, in the categories of small and marginal the number rose (by 8.8% and 22.4% respectively). The rise in total operational holdings of 17.8 million is due mainly to the increase in the number of marginal holdings, that is, below one hectare, and these account for more than 95% of the all holdings added to the total in this ten-year period.

At a national level, the addition of such a large number of small holdings has not expanded the total acreage under cultivation. Rather, all cultivated land – in all size categories – has very slightly shrunk (by 0.16%) to 159.1 million hectares. However, the total masks both one large deficit and one large addition – a 17.5% decrease in the total operating area of large holdings (10-20 hectares, and above 20 hectares), and a 18.7% increase in the total operating area of marginal holdings (below one hectare). The total area operated as marginal holdings has risen from 29.8 million hectares in 2000-01 to 35.4 million hectares in 2010-11.

This provides some of the background about the change in land use that accompanies the disturbing top-level indication given to us by Census 2011 about India’s farmers. There are now 95.8 million cultivators for whom farming is their main occupation, reported P Sainath, which is less than 8 per cent of the population, down from 103 million in 2001 and 110 million in 1991.

Urbanising regions have bled farming districts of their cultivators, and pushed them into cities in towns in conditions such as these. A slum settlement in northern Mumbai.

Urbanising regions have bled farming districts of their cultivators, and pushed them into cities in towns in conditions such as these. A slum settlement in northern Mumbai.

It is with these readings – in the change in number of and type of farm plots – that the change in the numbers of cultivator and agricultural labour gives us a fuller picture. Considering the four categories of occupation under the Census enumeration which pertain to cultivation and agriculture, we have main or marginal cultivators or agricultural labourers, and data for the changes seen in these categories between the two Censuses (2001 and 2011). The changes for the 20 large states reveal the following (data sheet is available here as a xlsx file):

* The variation in the number of marginal agricultural labourers ranges from 170% more in Jammu and Kashmir, 100% more in Bihar and 83% more in Himachal Pradesh to 32% less in Kerala, 23% less in Maharashtra and 16% less in Karnataka.
* The variation in the number of marginal cultivators ranges from 47% more in Jharkhand, 31% more in Himachal Pradesh and 25% more in Bihar to 35% less in Gujarat, 34% less in Haryana and 33% less in Maharashtra.
* The variation in the number of main agricultural labourers ranges from 117% more in Rajasthan, 89% more in Himachal Pradesh and 73% more in Uttaranchal to 10% less in Kerala, 5% more in Bihar and 10% more in Punjab.
* The variation in the number of main cultivators ranges from 17% more in Assam, 12% more in Maharashtra and 2% more in Rajasthan to 40% less in Jammu and Kashmir, 24% less in Jharkhand and 20% less in Bihar.

These losses and Census gains have much to do with the great urbanisation taking place in the major states. There is a continuing trend of holdings smaller in size and greater in number (which must, from an agricultural productivity point of view, not automatically be considered a liability), which is a factor in the redistribution of cultivating communities of the food-producing districts. The consequences to the capacities of these districts for sustaining a minimum level of food production for their own consumption are yet to be recognised and understood.

How a farmer who killed himself a year ago appeared in a political ad

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A protest in Karnataka against the political advertisement

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state government in Karnataka has run a political advertisement featuring a photograph of a farmer. The ad is part of a campaign to get votes for the party’s candidates during elections to village panchayats, to be held later in December. The farmer whose picture was used in the ad committed suicide on 27 May 2009, well over a year ago.

Either the BJP did not know the farmer in the picture was dead, or did not care in its hurry to get the campaign out in time for the elections. Either way, the outrage in Karnataka has turned into protest and all-round condemnation. The point however is that whether it is the BJP or the Congress, this sort of carelessness reflects how little real attention is given to those who grow food in India.

Extracts from press reports:

The family of Nagaraju from a village about 80 km from Bangalore in Mandya district says he killed himself in 2009 after he was unable to pay off massive debts. He left behind a wife and two young children who are in school. “He died one and a half year ago. Our relatives are coming and asking if he is still alive,” says Bhavya, his daughter. The Opposition says the ad proves how little the government is in touch with the state’s farmers. “Does the chief minister have any concern? You can know the government’s true colours are looking at that ad,” says HD Kumaraswamy of the JD(S). The government says it is looking into the matter. “We will take necessary steps to see that it is corrected if it is wrong,” says Chandra Gowda, a BJP MP.

The BJP on Tuesday withdrew a controversial advertisement with the picture of a farmer highlighting B S Yeddyurappa government’s achievements after it learnt that the farmer had committed suicide, and apologized to his family. The farmer in the ad had committed suicide, unable to repay his debts. B H Nagaraju, a native of Babaurayanakoppalu village, barely 3km from Srirangapatna, had killed himself on May 27, 2009. His family was shocked to see his face in the BJP’s poll ads. In the ad, Nagaraj, who holds sugarcane and a sickle, smilingly talks of his fortune changing after the BJP government took over in Karnataka. His family members claimed Nagaraju committed suicide after he was caught in a debt trap. He is survived by his parents, wife Lakshmi and children Bhavya and Umesh. His father Hanumegowda said his family did not own any land and his son was an agriculture labourer. His daily wages weren’t adequate to support the family.

The BJP issued the advertisement in a few Kannada dailies Sunday ahead of the Dec 26 and Dec 31 polls in 176 taluka (sub-district) and 30 zilla (district) panchayats. The enraged villagers and family members of Nagaraju, who is survived by his parents, wife and two children, are planning to block the Bangalore-Mysore highway Wednesday as the BJP has not apologized for the goof up. “We will stage a dharna on the Bangalore-Mysore highway on Wednesday as no one from the BJP has come to the village to apologise to Nagaraju’s family,” said B.S. Sandesh, former president of Srirangapatna taluka. The farmers staged a demonstration in Baburayanakopplu on the Mysore-Bangalore highway on Monday, protesting against the advertisement, and raised slogans denouncing the government.