Agrarian Crisis: Time to look at fundamental issues

Chennai, March 15, 2015: The agrarian crisis is getting more intensive & farmers’ suicides caused by a combination of adverse monsoon & market behaviour are getting prominent attention particularly in the mass media. The small compensation being offered to the widows and farm families of those who have committed suicide has aroused more anger than appreciation. It is time we look at the fundamental problems faced by farmers. 150 years ago, the US started Land Grant colleges based on the Morrill Act of 1862 and 1890. We adopted this model of looking at farming in a holistic way, i.e. crop, livestock, fish, agro-forestry and agro-processing as the mandate for our agricultural universities which number 62 now. Unfortunately both in the organisation of Agricultural Universities & Departments, responsibilities are getting fragmented. The agriculture university which was to serve farmers on a farming system basis, has now been split into veterinary, animal sciences, fisheries & horticulture universities. Thus neither from the research, nor from the extension and development sides, farmers now get integrated advice covering conservation of natural resources, cultivation on the evergreen revolution pattern, consumption and commerce. There is thus a growing dichotomy between farmers’ needs and the response of government and farm universities. Among the problems faced by farming families, the absence of a system of integrated advice and help is a serious one. Time has come to restore the original concept of farm universities viz. to carryout research, education and extension on a farming system basis, since this will help in providing both farm and non-farm incomes, thereby saving farmers from total income collapse.