Farmers are fighters and have big hearts. They feed the whole nation, but they are struggling the most to have decent living.
This blog is dedicated to all the Indian farmers who are fighting against new farm laws which were passed by Indian government during the COVID-19 pandemic, and which will devastate farmers’ livelihood and it is dedicated to those who already lost their lives in this struggle.
I am the son of a farmer and grew up in a small village. I have seen their struggle firsthand. This article is based on my personal experience. I am revisiting my entire childhood memories as I am writing this article.
A regular day at farmer’s house starts at 4-5 am and there is no day off or break. It is worse when there is bad weather.
Farmers know how to grow food, but they always lack financial literacy to invest their money. It is difficult for someone to invest when they do not even get the right price for their produce and there is no way to have any kind of savings.
It is crazy to know that still so many farmers are committing suicide in India, it is directly related to their financial situation which does not seem like getting better anytime soon.
The top six states — Maharashtra (3,927 suicides), Karnataka (1,992), Andhra Pradesh (1,029), Madhya Pradesh (541), Chhattisgarh (499) and Telangana (499) — account for 83% of the deaths, which are committed by people who are involved in the farm sector.
FARMERS SINKING INTO DEBT
Inflation, Corruption, and delay in payments are few of many reasons pushing farmers into the Debt cycle. They borrow money to start a new crop and are barely able to make interest payments by the time they receive their payments. These repeating loans and on top of that few bad seasons push them to extreme debt that they can never come out of. No one wants to die but sometimes, that seems like a better choice.
There are a lot of people struggling financially even in developed countries like Canada and the US. But they mostly struggle because of their own mistakes or lack of financial literacy. Farmers struggle financially for many reasons which are not in their hands, sometimes it’s corruption or governments, but sometimes it’s bad weather or disease and no one has control on that.
LONG WAIT TO PRODUCE\ALWAYS CATCHING UP.
This is the worst way to make money; they need to buy seeds, Oil\gas for tractors to prepare, they use fertilizers every single time to start a new crop, but it takes 3-12 months to produce it and take it to the market. Basically, they are just spending money for 3-12 months without getting any returns.
Imagine working for 3-12 months without getting paid at all and instead of that you are spending money to grow crops while working. And imagine a life of a family of 4 with all the expenses of their living and additional money to spend on crops. Normally, they do not have this amount of money. They need to borrow money in the hope of better crops, but it is never enough to compensate for all the interest they have been accumulating.
They are always playing catching up game. Growing crop with borrowed money is a big risk and just one bad crop or bad weather push them to committing suicide.
DELAY IN PAYMENTS
It takes so long to produce a crop and on top of that farmers had to sell their crop without getting payments for months or years. Yes, sometimes it takes years to get paid. This is not something that I just have heard from other people, but I have seen this myself how sugarcane factories take months\years to make payments. Is there any other business in the world that works like this?
It is mostly the story of every single crop, there is always delay in payments to farmers.
Farmers are paying interest on the money they have borrowed while buyers don’t pay any interest in delay for their payment. They should receive interest for any delay in payment.
NOT GETTING RIGHT PRICE FOR THE CROP
We have MINIMUM SUPPORT PRICE (MSP) declared by governments, but farmers are never able to sell their crop at the minimum price. It is just crazy to think that they do not even receive the minimum price.
I have seen farmers throwing Potato crops on streets because the market rate is extremely low. It takes more money to transport the crop to sell and sometimes seems a better option to just throw it. They have such a big heart to do this. This creates a big hole to their financial situation and sometimes it is impossible to come out of it.
Currently, Farmers are fighting for their rights against the government for MSP. I am hoping something good will come out of their fight. They are fighters and they will not stop now, they have suffered a lot.
It is not possible to have great weather all the time, any extreme weather situation is bad for crops. Sometimes, it does not rain when needed and sometimes it rains like crazy.
There seems to be some crazy connection between the bad weather and the time farmers have to cut the crop.
Just one day of strong wind and rain can destroy the whole wheat crop, farmers worked hard for months to grow it by putting their sweat and money, but it can just vanish with bad weather.
How can farmers be financially stable with so many things going against them all the time?
They are already starting with borrowed money and losing crops in bad weather makes things worse.
We used to have big families working together in the past, but families are shrinking for some time now.
Farming is completely dependent on other people; inflation has a big impact on the cost of labor as well. There is a lot of demand, but not enough people are available to work at the farm during the peak season. In result, labor has become extremely expensive and it’s getting out of reach for small scale farmers to pay them.
Farmers must pay the labor on time otherwise they will not be able to hire them again, imagine farmers dealing with delay in payments but they must pay everyone else on time. Sometimes, they need to borrow money to pay the labor.
INFLATION (EXPENSIVE SEED, FERTILIZERS, OIL AND GAS)
Inflation has pushed the cost of Seeds, Fertilizers, and oil to the sky, it is almost out of reach for the farmers. It is difficult to count how many times oil prices went up in recent years and it is almost touching Rs 100 in India which is almost the same as what people pay for gas in Canada. But people in India do not make the same amount of money and inflation in Canada is very low. Diesel used to be much cheaper than Petrol, but it costs almost the same as Petrol now which is mostly used in tractors or other farming machinery.
Low quality seeds and fertilizers are selling for crazy prices. Sometimes, I wonder how people are still able to do farming.
LACK OF GOVERNMENT INITIATIVE, HELP AND LACK OF SUBSIDIES
Governments have blamed farmers for burning stubble every year, but we have not seen governments putting any money to figure out how to handle it better. This is just one example, for lack of initiatives from the governments to help farmers in the last 10-20 years.
Governments have been promising for decades to help farmers with their loans, but nothing has been done, and things have gotten worse.
CORRUPTION AND MIDDLEMAN
Farmers not getting the right price and middlemen controlling the supply and demand of crops makes things worse for farmers. Middleman decides the price of the crop at their will, and they do not pay the full amount for months.
Sometimes, there are some programs available to help the farmers but corruption in the system starting from Politicians to all the levels of society never lets these benefits get the farmers.
Any program or initiative loses its purpose by the time it reaches farmers, they still have to pay for them, which were supposed to be free of cost in the first place.
NO FINANCIAL LITERACY
There are always exceptions and maybe there are some farmers who are able to manage their money well, but I have not seen a lot of them.
Financial literacy is most important for farmers because they wait a long time for their crops to be ready and then they wait to get paid. It may look like that they are very good at managing it all as they are doing it for a long period of time now. But that is not the case for most of them.
Farmers in developing courtiers are not illiterate anymore; they are getting some basic education, is that enough to deal with all the challenges?
I have seen very well-educated people struggling financially, if they are not able to manage their money and finances, you can imagine how difficult it can be for farmers who do not even have basic education let alone the financial literacy.
I hope we can work on some programs specially directed towards farmers literacy and help them understand finances and the importance of saving and investments.
NO FUTURE INVESTMENTS FOR CHILDREN EDUCATION OR RETIREMENT
Farmers live in rural areas and these places lack a lot of development. It is very difficult for them to gain any access to good investments like Stocks or Mutual funds.
Most of the schemes we find in rural areas are mostly scams and they end on the losing side.
Lack of funds, lack of knowledge and lack of resources are the big culprits that puts them behind than the other parts of society.
Farmers don’t have enough money to spend on good education for their kids and some of the farmer parents end up taking loans for their children’s educations which push them further into worse situations.
DIVIDED LAND\NOT ENOUGH LAND
We are losing big farmers as land is getting divided between their children over time. If a guy with 50 acres has 5 kids, they will just inherit 10 arcs each and if all of them had 2 kids each then their kids will inherit just 5 acres each. In just 2 generations, that guy’s grand kids will inherit just 5 acres.
I came from a small village and most of the farmers I have seen have less than 10 acres of land which is just enough for survival but what is going to happen to their next generation. In the next 2 generations, their kids will have just a few acres of land left.
This is really hurting farmers; small scale farmers cannot afford to buy a lot of tools and it is difficult to hire a guy to help them. These farmers end up using land from other farmers on contract but that brings down their profit, if there is any.
In the past, there used to be big families and all the family members used to work at their farms together. They used to live in one house and were doing farming together. But time has changed, it’s time for just 1-2 kids only and people don’t like to live together anymore. In result, it makes it difficult to do farming themselves and they need to hire labor to work at their farms.
NO SIDE BUSINESS
Farmers need side business more than other people because they do not get paid for months for their crops. Some of the farmers have extra cows to sell milk which help them to make some extra monthly income and there are many other options available for them like making organic fertilizers, renting out farming tools or poultry farming etc.
But sometimes their PRIDE comes in their way and they don’t like to do these things which can actually help them to create a regular source of income.
Farmers who don’t have extra side income struggle to meet their monthly needs.
NEW GENERATION HAVE NO INTEREST IN FARMING.
Farming needs people to be patient without making any income for a month but we don’t live in that kind of world anymore and kids born in this century want everything instant.
In result, the new generation is losing their interest in farming, but we still need food and humans won’t be able to service without farmers. Farmers are losing the help they should be getting from their children to do small farming. To compensate for the need, they hire labor which takes their share of profit.
It has become easier to move to countries like Canada, US or Australia, we are not too far from the time when no one will be left in India to do farming anymore.
RESERVATION FOR JOBS FOR OTHER COMMUNITIES
Reservation for jobs in India is pushing new generation farmers into darkness.
They do not have money to send their children to get good education and some of them who can get education are pulled down by the Reservation for jobs in India. Farmers are the new class who need help, we need to either get rid of Reservation to give everyone an equal chance or farmers should get their own reservation.
Government policies are pushing new generations out of the country to look for work somewhere else.
Is this the future of our Farmers? There are a lot of questions, but we are unable to answer them.
DONATION FOR FARMERS
Now is the time when there is still a hope of improvement. We should open our hearts and start helping farmers before it is too late.
KHALSA AID: https://www.khalsaaid.org/
By Dr. Swaiman Singh: https://www.5riversheart.org/
Learn more about the ongoing Farmers Protest from various resources available at : https://farmerprotests.carrd.co/