There is a current rage among Indian politicians to project themselves as pro-farmer. Who has waived how many loans, which government has increased how much MSP? Such questions have been buzzing the political circles like never before. I would not know about agriculture being the backbone of a specific country. But a farmer or a Kisaan can be considered the backbone of almost every country.
These things do reflect the significance of farmers in our societal structure who work their bones out to produce so that we people living in our comfortable urban cages can be fed properly. But we need to ponder if such make shift arrangements should be the norm instead of trying to bring structural reforms in our farming sector.
We have a tendency in our country to keep adjusting to things somehow. Such tendency often given the term “Jugaad” which mainly implies to the make-shift arrangements. The current write-up tries to highlight one such structural problem in farming: the land fragmentation from generation after generation is leading to absentee “landlords”.
So, the story begins with a question as to who is a kisaan. I would like to share one example here: a UP Police constable from the neighborhood received his sukha rahat cheque of Rs. 5000 last year. For a genuine “kisaan” who in most of the cases either falls in the category of the tiller or the landless laborer, that amount is nothing when compared to what he expects from his actual crop produce under a normal year of production. But for a Kisaan on paper, who only visits once or twice his Khet in the whole crop year, that amount comes as a privilege considering it doesn’t cost him a single drop of sweat.
The need of the hour is to know how such an indispensable situation has become a question today. The answer lies in one of my discussions on the same issue. I remember one very casual session that was centered around the most fundamental issue of agriculture in India.
During the discussion, I deemed the fragmentation of land from generation after generation due to archaic Hindu property rights system in which agricultural land owned by father gets divided among the siblings in an equal proportion. So, what is wrong with this system as it is the most plausible way of avoiding conflicts. There is no problem in the roots of this system until this newly distributed land receives desired priority from its newest owner in economic terms.
But since agriculture land keeps getting fragmented from generation after generation, so the owner is left with nothing but a patch of land which doesn’t yield much interest and therefore be left to either be cultivated on an absentee basis which is usually on an annual contract system or at the complete mercy of its bataidaar.
In such a scenario, the tiller is happy in whatever crop he can produce at the end of the year since he must pay a meager amount and the owner is happy because he is getting at least some guaranteed income from a source that was merely passed to him from his ancestors without any efforts.
The same phenomenon of an absentee landlord that made permanent settlement was introduced during British times which turned out to be an economic catastrophe leading to many peasant revolts during that time albeit these days’ peasant revolts which occur in the form of suicides.
So what can be the solution for such a situation? I think our policymakers need to frame more coherent policies to encourage such absentee owners to pass their agricultural land to the actual tiller as it happened during land reforms which were enacted post-independence with huge success.
I know many such absentee Kisaans who agree with this economic logic yet are not prepared to follow the required solution since for them their ancestral land is like their “mother”. To them I can only say that it’s high time that we start treating land as just land, women as just women and cow just as a cow. The moment we add mata to any of these all the real issues of concern get hijacked and what we end up with is a situation where not one mother feels happy and satisfied.