"The big picture is essentially composed of pixels. The micro details from states enable a better comprehension of the distance between what is and what can be in the political economy. This week the government of Maharashtra, arguably among the better-managed states, released its annual economic survey. Entrenched in the details are possibilities and predicaments that political India is faced with. Over 30,000 farmers from across Maharashtra are marching from Nashik to Mumbai. They plan to encircle Mantralaya, the seat of government, to corral political attention. The headline is about fall in overall growth, from 10 per cent to 7.3 per cent. The distress is located in the dip in agriculture and allied activities—from 22.5 per cent to minus (-) 8.3 per cent.
Credit to farmers is stymied by affordability and access—Maharashtra’s 40,959 villages have 2,979 banking offices. Of the net sown area of 17-plus million hectares, irrigation reaches barely 17.8 per cent. In the water-scarce state, the area under water guzzler sugarcane has nearly doubled since 2001. Yes, sugar pays more, but must it be cane, and why not tropical sugar beet, which consumes less water and delivers more? Given the impact of climate change, states need to adopt the paradigm of drip irrigation funded by incentives.
Agriculture accounts for 11 per cent of GSDP but rural Maharashtra hosts 55 per cent of the 11 crore populace. Landholdings have shrunk to an average of 1.44 hectares, reducing viability. But naturally, the marching farmers are demanding a complete loan waiver—and similar agitations are surfacing across India. The problem in Maharashtra represents the larger issue Bharat faces. Farming needs a new viability model with backward and forward linkages. All that talk about contract/group/collective farming must walk, and now!"
Read the whole article here.