ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Conditions of Farmers in West Bengal

This paper is a part of the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) Project, and the author is thankful to ICSSR, New Delhi for providing him with financial assistance to conduct this research work. The author is also thankful to Sridev Adak and Animesh Kundu, former research assistants, ICSSR Research Project for helping him in data collection, data entry, and tabulation works.

The income and poverty conditions of farmers’ households in four sample districts of West Bengal are brought out. The main crops grown in the study areas are paddy, wheat, jute, pulses, potato, and vegetables. Farmers mostly suffered from losses in cultivating these crops, except for fruits and vegetables. Their main source of income is received from wages and salaries, which constituted 45.76% of their total income. In the study area, around 70% of the incomes of farmers’ households come from non-farm sources and this reflects the picture of a relative collapse of agriculture as the primary source of rural livelihood. Farm sector becomes increasingly non-viable as income earned from the farm sector is not sufficient to meet farmers’ daily requirement. As per the poverty estimation based on the Rangarajan Expert Committee report, about 35% of the farmers’ households may be regarded as poor in the study areas of West Bengal.

Farmers’ conditions in West Bengal are very deplorable. Their source of income is highly volatile because they are facing double risks, that is, production and marketing risks. Further, from the early 1990s, neo-liberal policies entailed the reduction of public investments in agriculture, withdrawal of subsidies, weakening of institutional support, including institutional credit and extension, and the lowering of tariff protection on agricultural trade (Mahendradev 2000; Rao 2003; Ramachandran 2011). This leads to increasing dependency of farmers on moneylenders for credit, traders for sale of their crop output and agricultural input dealers for crop advice, etc. Thus, the middlepersons, traders, input sellers, etc, have an increased scope to exploit them, while they are deprived of getting fair returns from the selling of output. About 90% of farmers in West Bengal are small and marginal farmers. High population pressure on land leads to subdivisions and fragmentation of landholdings, making it difficult for them to meet ends. Moreover, increase in the price of agricultural inputs, uncertain price of perishable agricultural produce, inadequate market infrastructure, and distress sale of produce by small and marginal farmers are additional problems that pose serious challenges to sustainability of the farm sector in the state (Goswami et al 2014). The socio-economic condition of the farming community is declining in the absence of appropriate technical, social, financial, and market interventions (NABCONS 2009; Goswami et al 2014). Now the income of a farmer increases at a lower rate as compared to the income earned by an agricultural labour and a non-agricultural worker (Chand et al 2015).

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Updated On : 4th Jun, 2022
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