Well-intentioned, but possible useless

Raitha Dasara looks like a good idea but may not beMysore Dasara Official Fan Page, Facebook
news Sunday, September 13, 2015 - 13:36

The Karnataka government’s decision to make this year’s Naada Habba during Dasara a simple, farmer-centric affair may be well intentioned, but it may be just that, with no real effectiveness.

District in-charge Minister V Srinivasa Prasad told reporters on Saturday that the government had decided to bring down the expenditure from Rs 15 crore to Rs 4 crore, on account of the drought and spate in farmers’ suicides.

Read: This is how the Indian government reduced farm suicides in the country in a year

In 2012 too, the government brought down the expenditure from Rs 10 crore to Rs 6 crore because of drought.

But this year, besides reducing the expenditure, the state government has also decided to make farmers the focus of the celebration by organizing a Raitha Dasara (Farmers’ Dasara) and holding exhibitions to educate farmers on the use of technological implements and progressive farming methods.

While this move seems good on paper, an analysis of the current agriculture crisis in the state shows that organizing a one-time education and awareness programme with farmers will do little to mitigate farmers’ distress for the following reasons:

Rural debt

Levels of rural indebtedness are high, on account of the nature of farming – money will come (if at all it does) periodically, depending on the cycle of the crop grown and could range between a few months to a whole year. Because of the dependence on artificial fertilizers and pesticides, purchase of seeds every crop cycle, farmers are forced to take loans, which are a significant factor in their level of debt. Personal expenses too often have to be met by borrowing money.

Read: Why sugarcane farmer Ninge Gowda set his field on fire and jumped into his own pyre

Fluctuation in prices

Because of globalization and liberalization of the economy, Indian farmers are exposed to international price fluctuations, and a drop or spike in demand. Many farmers have said that there is a gap between what they think the market trend will be, and what it actually turns out to be. The government, they feel, should be giving them a better idea of what to sow, and how much. In the absence of this farmers decide on their own, ending up with excess of a particular crop or bearing the brunt of international price fluctuations and often let their crops rot on the fields because the returns would not be enough to even cover the expense of harvesting it.

Read: Mandya's farmers are killing themselves because it's not just one crop that failed

Lab knowledge

Farmers also have some contempt for cultivation methods developed or advocated by the agricultural universities. In Mandya for instance, farmers say that officials from the agricultural university ask them to carry out tasks for cultivation which would make their input costs shoot up. As a student of a university of agriculture put it, “Those who make the manuals have never seen a farm and those who do the cultivation have never been to university.”

Climate uncertainties

Karnataka is the second-most arid state in the country after Rajasthan. This year’s drought has been one of the worst in the last 40 years, with rainfall being low across the state, including the rain-rich Malnad region. Not only has this exacerbated the problem of drinking water shortage, it has also caused power production to fall.

Many scientists have said that climate change does contribute to extreme weather conditions across the world and has definitely had an indirect impact on agriculture in Karnataka.

Read: Nauseating Karnataka politicians turn up to give money when farmers kill themselves