There have been incessant talks and discussions about Covid 19, that is all that people have been worrying about. Every newspaper, every news channel, even conversations with people is about Coronavirus. As we see the numbers of positive cases increasing, we worry. We worry when we will see the end of this. We are worried about the lockdown. We are worried about no maids, no cooks at home. We are worried about the world economy, we are worried about the country’s dipping economy and the losses unmeasurable.
Yes, everyone has been hard hit in some way or the other. In a big way or small, but I wonder if we sit to ponder upon the situation of that one person, the Farmer, because of whom, we atleast eat our meals today, despite being in a lockdown, in such tough times.
Today, majority of India’s population lies in the bottom of the pyramid. Agriculture is the primary source of livelihood for about 58 per cent of India’s population. As agriculture supports livelihood of more than 50% population, it is essential to make this sector healthy. Besides, GDP growth rate slowing to 5% and 4.5 % in Q1 and Q2 of 2019-20 depicts an alarming situation. While the country aims to become a 5 trillion dollar economy, agriculture sector face crisis.
The Agriculture sector remains key prospect to fix slowing economy and yet is the most ignored sector, where the under-privileged are in numbers, where suicide rates were exorbitant in good times. I wonder what challenges they are facing now. The setback caused by the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have hurt the country’s struggling rural economy that supports nearly half its population into further distress.
With ready harvest, but hobbled by severe labor shortages, plummeting demand due to a nationwide coronavirus lockdown, millions of farmers have been staring at huge losses. As we complain about losses, whether it is the stocks, or the company losses, whether it is about gold or silver prices, whether it is the economic loss or the oil price loss! I wonder if a fair chance can be given to the farmers to talk about his hardships and his losses and pain. He struggles to survive with bare basics, sometimes goes without food even.
Being so close to the farms myself, I feel chills down my spine, even thinking, what would we have done had we depended on agriculture alone for our living? Despite, being called the Annadaata, the food giver, would we be struggling too, for our basic needs to be met? So much, for ensuring that we get our daily share of food everyday? Taking an example from our own farm at Kalandri, the production of jeera is an umpteen process which takes months, start from the sowing to the reaping.
For an effort like that, a meagre return is no way to thank the farmer for the time, energy and so much more that he invests in it, just so that it reaches you and me.
As per reports, apart from the loan waive woes, wherein with an investment of say Rs 8-10 for cultivation of a crop, the returns are a meagre Rs 17-22 for farmer and the market price of the product is Rs 100. Returns of a mere 17%, out of which most of it goes in expenses, he is hardly left with anything. So much for almost nothing? Which clearly implies that the middle – men make the most of it, than the person who actually put in his sweat to reap it. The outstanding loan of the farmer exceeds his income and it’s a recurring pain that he goes through. Now, in times of Covid, it gets even worse, as the farmers struggle for their daily livelihood.
The assets, the car, the luxury, the numerous properties carry no value if one did not have the basic essential to eat, which is food! As we wear the masks, in fear of an uncertain future. As we take another morsel of food, probably the only thing that matters for survival, during a lockdown. I wish we could even remember the man who struggles the most in times like these. Ironically, the man who is providing us the very food that we eat today, himself could be going without a penny, without food for days?
Snapshots from our village, in Kalandri, Rajasthan
Opinions in this piece belong to the author: Ramesh Kumar Shah
Ramesh Kumar Shah is the founder of the RK Group, founder of RK Trust (rktrust.in) and co-founder of Harvard Business School Angels of India. Apart from being a businessman, he is keenly involved in making as much of a difference in people’s lives as he can, most recently through the Let’s Mask India initiative, that provides a free mask to all the residents of Bangalore.