Agriculture, long considered the backbone of Indian society, is no longer yielding enough income for those engaged in it
The Situation Assessment Survey (SAS), published by the National Statistical Office on 10 September, 2021, is the most comprehensive official survey on economic conditions of peasants in the country. It was conducted in 2019 and collected data for the 12-month period July 2018 to June 2019. It confirms the severity of the agrarian crisis and the miserable conditions of kisan families.
The SAS estimates that there were 17.2 crore households in rural India in 2018-19, of which 9.3 crore were agricultural households, or families of kisans. Of the remaining 7.9 crore households, 4.3 crore were dependent on casual wage labour. About 2.2 crore households had at least one member with a salaried job.
An agricultural household has been defined as a household which had at least one member who was self-employed in cultivating crops, rearing livestock or producing other specified agricultural products, worth more than ₹4,000 during the year.
The average monthly income earned by agricultural households during July 2018-June 2019 was Rs. 10,200, of which Rs. 3800 was from cultivation and Rs. 4060 from wage income. Given that this was the average, it means that at least half the kisan households earned less than Rs. 10,000 per month.
A comparison of the SAS of 2018-19 with the previous SAS of 2012-13 shows that kisan households are becoming more and more dependent on wage income. In 2012/13, 48 percent of the average income of agricultural households came from cultivating one’s own or leased in land, while 32 percent was wage income. In 2018/19, the share of cultivation had fallen to 37 percent while the share of wage income had risen to 40 percent.
Agriculture, long considered the backbone of society in the Indian subcontinent, is no longer yielding enough income for those engaged in it .
For the majority of kisans who possess 10 acres or less, income from cultivation is not enough for maintaining the family. One or more family members have to find a salaried job or at least daily wage work. For a minority of large land holders, most income continues to come from cultivation; but even for them, net income from farming has been on a declining trend in recent years.
While successive governments in New Delhi and in the states have been implementing various measures to improve the “ease of doing business” for capitalist companies, the economic activity of kisans has become extremely risky. They have no alternative except to unite in struggle to change the unbearable conditions.