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Make Farming Great Again

In the last decade, the rate of farmers suicide in India has ranged between 1.4 to 1.8 per
100,000 of the total population. With around 60% of the population dependent directly or
indirectly on agriculture for their living, these numbers are alarming. While the causes of
suicides may vary from region to region, the root cause is the lack of the money involved in
farming. This money is also the reason why a majority of the youth isnt looking up to farming as
their profession. This is true, not only for the small and marginal farming families but even of
those operating medium and large farms.

Data from the latest census shows that the employment has stagnated over the last two
decades. Even disappointing is the fact that the rural population, which is largely agriculture
dependent, is slowly losing its interest. The rural youth is looking for better employment
opportunities and a better standard of living, and hence moving to urban areas. Moreover, low
profitability in agriculture and the rapidly shrinking size of the landholdings have added to the
increase disenchantment of the rural youth from farming. The average urban and semi-urban
youth was never really into farming, or anything labour intensive for that fact of matter. The
education system and the portrayal of farmers in the media added to this indifference. Today, an
educated youth is perfectly fine being a clerk than choosing farming as his profession.

While this shouldnt make any immediate impact on food production and/or cultivation, the
long term implications could be a real problem. According to a UN report, Indias population is
expected to exceed that of China by 2022. It is expected that the population of India would
reach 1.7 billion by 2050. Naturally, the food consumption would rise and the food productivity
should rise with it. But if the people would drop the idea of becoming farmers, how would we
achieve that level of productivity?

In a 2006 report by National Commission on Farmers, the commission had observed that The
youth can be attracted to and retained in farming only if it becomes economically rewarding and
intellectually satisfying. It had also emphasized on the need to provide power, roads, irrigation,
education and health facilities, among other things in the rural areas. Apart from this, the need
of the hour is a greater political involvement. Almost all political parties talk about uplifting
farmers, but most of the policies of the government focuses on increasing the productivity and
the compensation to the farmers. Not enough has been done to make the youth educated
about farming.

In 2015, the government started a scheme called ARYA (Attracting and Retaining Youth in
Agriculture). This programme is aimed at training and equipping the rural youth with skills that
would allow them to earn extra income from their farm, and would also be provided loans for
entrepreneurial activities in agriculture. It was projected that 200 to 300 youths would be
trained in every Krishi Vigyaan Kendra (KVKs) of the 25 states. We still dont have any data
regarding this scheme, but if implemented efficiently, this could help keep the rural youth linked
to the agriculture.

But only one scheme is not enough. For a major shift in the minds of the rural youth, it is
imperative that the government focuses on uplifting the current standard of living in the rural
areas, by providing urban-like facilities. Unless that happens, it would be very difficult to urge
the rural youth to stay in their villages and our dream of making farming great again might not
see the light of the day.