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India needs a National Farmers Income Commission

May 24, 2014

Policy Analyst Devinder Sharma strongly advocates that the income a farmer earns in India should be de-linked from the price that his crops fetch in the market.

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New Delhi: Indian agriculture is faced with a terrible agrarian crisis. It is a crisis primarily of sustainability and economic viability. The spate of farmer suicide and the willingness of farmers to quit agriculture if given a choice is a stark reminder of the grave crisis. The agriculture agenda of the new government should therefore focus on:

There is a need to provide a guaranteed assured monthly income to farmers. According to the Arjun Sengupta Committee report the average monthly income of a farm family is Rs 2,115. This includes Rs 900 from non-farm activities. About 60 per cent farmers are dependent on MNREGA activities to survive, and an estimated 60 per cent farmers go to bed hungry.

But these farmers produce economic wealth for the country in the form of agricultural, horticultural and dairy produce. It is high time they are adequately compensated for generating that massive economic wealth in the form of food. My suggestion is that the new government should set up a National Farmers Income Commission which should have the mandate to compute the monthly income of a farm family depending upon his production and the geographical location of the farm.

Also, the time for price policy is now over. Every time the MSP is raised questions are asked about its impact on food inflation. Moreover, the WTO has pulled India for the subsidies that it doles out to farmers by way of MSP. It is therefore an appropriate time to move to Income Policy.

Essentially, the income that a farmer earns should be de-linked from the price that his crops fetch in the market. The burden of providing cheap food to 1.25 billion people should not be only on the shoulders of farmers. The society too must share the burden.

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