NSO Survey Report, 2019October 27, 2021
Proletarianization of the Peasantry – New Agricultural Laws will Devastate Countryside
There are still some government departments left that have not succumbed to the arm twisting by the present fascist Modi government. ‘National Statistical Office’ (NSO) is one such department. The National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) was established in 1950 under the Ministry of Planning to provide necessary data for the Five- Year Plans. This is the department which under the present regime, on the basis of its surveys in 2019, ‘dared’ to unravel the truth that unemployment in the country at this time is so terrible as it has never been in the last 45 years. Modi government, fond of seeing the choicest headlines in the sold- out media, naturally, got furious. When people started making fun on social media on the lines of ‘What did not happen in seventy years’, the government grabbed arm of the government officials to twist. ‘We want data showing low unemployment’. In response to this government decree, saying that low unemployment data is only possible when people get employment, PC Mohanan and JV Meenakshi resigned from their posts in January 2019. After their departure, there were only two ‘pure government officials’ (courtyard!) left in the ‘National Statistical Commission’, Amitabh Kant and Praveen Srivastava!! Modi government on May 23, 2019 merged the ‘National Sample Survey Department (NSSO) with the ‘Central Statistical Office (CSO) and renamed it as ‘National Statistical Office (NSO)’ and put it under ‘Statistics and Program Implementation’ department, Ministry of Statistics and Policy Implementation (MOSPI). Despite all this, the credibility of the data presented by this department can be trusted till date, at least.
Detailed report of the survey conducted by the National Statistical Office for their 77th round between July 2018 to June 2019 on the topic “Status of Farmer Families in Rural Areas and Evaluation of Land and Livestock Wealth of Families, 2019” was published on 10 September 2021. The report is like an epic consisting of 4264 pages from which the reality of the rural part of the country came flows out. In the first round of the survey, a total of 58035 farmer families of the country except Andaman and Nicobar and in the second round a total of 56894 farmer families were selected for the survey in such a way that all the socio-economic segments of the rural society could be represented. The purpose of this survey was to find out the income, productive assets and credit status of the farming families, to know the farming practices being adopted by the farming families, to find out the information about the technological development in the field of agriculture.
What is an ‘Agricultural Family’?
A family, engaged in farming, means grain, fruit, animal feed, orchard, animal husbandry, poultry, fish farming, pig farming, honey bee, vermiculture, silkworm rearing etc., and earns a minimum of ₹ 4000 per month and where at least one member of the family has been involved in agriculture or allied work throughout the year, such family is termed as a farmer family. There are a total of 172 million households in rural India, of which 93 million are agricultural households and 79 million are non-agricultural households.
Why is the Peasantry Drowned in Poverty? Why the Country-side Looks so devastated?
Move out of the center of the metropolis, pass the infinite series of slums of workers and you are in the ocean of desolate and poor countryside, as if nothing has changed for centuries. Why is countryside so pauperized? What is the reason for the farmers’ desperate anger? What are the factors and causes which are deepening the present peasant movement? More than 610 farmers have been martyred, the fear of police sticks and bullets is always there, yet why are the farmers not prepared to leave the peasant movement fronts regardless of the bitter cold, scorching heat and rain? In the light of this report, we will try to find answers to these questions.
Table 1: Ownership of agricultural land in the rural area and the number of houses
Table-1 provides us basic fact of the rural India. Of the total households in rural sector, landless are 8.2%, marginal farmers 76.5% and small farmers 9.3%. This means that 94% of the families are living in that piece of land in which no matter what they do, it is not possible to earn any surplus value, any income what so ever. As the sufferings increase, they keep on reducing their needs, they go on working hard and hard for still longer duration. Fragile thread of hope that ‘Acche Din’ will dawn upon them does not break, keeps them going. The living conditions of this segment have improved since medieval times, it is hard to believe. Almost the entire family of this section (94%) work tirelessly and endlessly. Their children can hardly afford to study in the nearby school if at all. These are the people who die in every disease of every season. The detailed report of 4264 pages did not show statistics of suicides, but on an average 28 farmers commit suicide every day in this country, they all belong to this segment. Anyway, the dividing line between their life and death is very thin. Condition of the marginal farmers is more pathetic than that of workers even because they have no holiday and no fixed working hours. Even in the evening they think, I wish the day was longer. The pauperization and ruin of this vast population cannot be prevented, stalled or averted under any circumstances in the current capitalist system. In the first phase of capitalist development, this population had to come out of their rural hell and get work in the cities, in industries as industrial workers, which is no longer possible any more. Reverse migration, meaning displacement of workers from the cities back to their villages, is happening these days. Whosoever person or party assures these people that their bad time will pass and they will begin earning surplus in case they come to power, is certainly and definitely cheating and befooling them. This segment is the most vulnerable to such cheating as they always live on very thin edge and even a little comfort of free food and liquor before elections is sufficient to sway them in any direction. They are the ‘wave creators’. They are alive because human body does not die immediately even after getting little food, it dies slowly. How can prosperity be seen in a society whose 94% share is burning in the furnace of poverty? That is why the countryside of our country looks so deserted and pathetic.
Total number of families belonging to the higher segment of the country-side, semi-medium, middle and rich farmers was 9.5% of the total rural population in 2002-03, which has come down to just 6% in 2018-19. Where have these people gone? All of them slipped down. This report tells us that every day an average of 2052 farmers are being forced to part with their land and become landless laborers in our country. The number of marginal farmers and landless labor families is increasing continuously. This process will be made worse by the new agricultural laws being brought in with the intention of handing over the entire agriculture sector to big crocodile corporates. Farmers, then, will not become laborers at the rate of 2052, but will be forcefully, evicted from the land en mass. Wealthy farmers hold relatively large capital compared to the marginal and small farmers, but their entire capital is a peanut in comparison to the corporate sharks sitting on mountains of uninvested capital due to the fusion of industrial capital with banking capital. Rich farmers too are going to face the same music in case the new agriculture laws are implemented and they are aware of this ‘chronology’, that is why they are not prepared to leave Delhi borders. They also know that they alone cannot thwart this lethal onslaught that is why that they have cemented their bond with the small and marginal farmers, the section they used to devour so far. Please remember that total rural households are 17.2 crores, 94% of them comes to 16.17 crores families, which, eventually, means that about 80 crore will people get evicted from the land in a jiffy or in a few years? Capitalism is mired in such severe an economic crisis today that it is not in a position to think anything ahead.
Why Do Farmers Want a Law to Guarantee Purchase of Entire Produce at the Minimum Support Price (MSP)?
‘Kanoon Vapsi Nahin To Ghar Vapsi Nahin (KVN To GVN)’, every agitating farmer is shouting this slogan which means we shall not vacate, till laws are repealed. Besides this, however, they want that government enacts a new law guaranteeing purchase of entire agricultural produce at MSP. Why? Let’s see.
The system of declaring Minimum Support Price (MSP) for the purchase of agricultural produce commenced in 1966-67. This was the first aggressive round of unleashing capitalist system in agricultural sector and a very attractive name was coined for the same; Green Revolution. Since then, however, whichever the government may have been, it has been the practice to declare the Minimum Support Price (MSP) and leave it then and there. Capitalism, by then, was engulfed in crisis the world over and more so in India. It had never had opportunity of free play in the countryside. More and more farmers should remain in dark about MSP, as if it has been ensured. There are two reasons for this. First- In the current capitalist system, the first duty of the entire system of governance is to be devoted to the interests of industrial capital. The rest of the work that is done is like a farce. There is always a difference between doing and the pretension of doing. Second- It is not the job of the capitalist system to guarantee the purchase of entire production of any commodity. It cannot be done because production is not as per plan, always chaotic and the guiding principle is never the welfare of the society but ‘law of the market’. The main battle is that of market only. For that, there have been two terrible world wars. One who can survive in the market will be there, the ‘incapable’ will get lost!! How can one, otherwise, understand that even after 55 years of the implementation of MSP, the Arhar (tur) dal, which is the essential item of every Indian, whose imports are subject to big scams, total government purchase of that extremely essential food item is only 0.8% of the total production!! Mustard, by stocking which the country’s ‘first citizen’ Adani has taken out lakhs of crores of rupees from the pockets of hungry and destitute people, government procurement by way of MSP is only 8.3% of the total production!! Government has left trading of pulses and oilseeds for the corporates to fleece the poor at will. They return the favor by filling the coffins of ruling party with electoral bonds by which MLAs-MPs are bought whenever and wherever needed. Thankfully, till now the government has not declared the MSP of MLAs and MPs!! Quantity wise, the largest purchase by the government at MSP is that of Sugarcane produce, that too is only 40.2% of the total production. Wheat purchase is only 20.8%, paddy 24.7%. Actually, the sale of crops of marginal and small i.e. 87% of the farmers is always a ‘Distress Sale’. Therefore, not selling their crops at MSP means sold at throw away price. They have to sell the entire produce to meet their urgent needs or to pay off the debt taken from someone, even if they have to buy the same for their household consumption at double the rate afterwards. On an average for all the crops, less than one-fourth of the total population is sold @ MSP. Only a fraction of population is actually aware, what is MSP and who is purchasing, what is its system and how to reach there. In fact, the decay of capitalism has now reached such a level that it is beneficial for the government if people are ignorant. It is convenient to run the government, how, otherwise, they will be swayed in the name of ‘national security’ or ‘Hindu religion is in danger’, how will people forget their hunger pangs and kill each other in the name of religion, caste, language, state. Government invests a lot of resources to keep the people ignorant!!
The other biting reality is that more than half of our countrymen go to bed hungry. We are 101 out of 116 countries on the World Hunger Index, ahead of Somalia, of course and still there is a condition of overproduction in agricultural products too, due to which the prices of cereals and pulses in the open market, especially during the harvest, are always much lower than the government price. This is the reason why farmers want a law guaranteeing the sale of their all their entire produce at MSP!! In 56 years of MSP regime, less than 25% of agricultural produce is sold @MSP and farmers want 100% sale to government @MSP!! Slogan of ‘BVN to GVN’ is very close to heart of every agitating farmer. The intention is noble and your courage is commendable, but dear farmer brothers, this is not possible in the present capitalist system. This can happen only and only in a society where needs of the whole society are supreme, and all policies and planning of the government are made in that direction only. Where people will be awakened politically, they will be empowered. In which all the government expenditure will be strictly according to the needs of the whole society, in which the Adani-Ambani and all their parasite ilk will be asked in unambiguous terms not to touch their looted empire and stand in que quietly to work if they want food. Name of that system is socialism in which the workers will rule and which will be built only by dismantling capitalism in the same was as capitalism was born from the womb of feudalism.
PM Crop Insurance Scheme is an Instrument in the Hands of Insurance Companies to Squeeze the Peasantry to Fill Their Pockets
The ‘Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana’ has completely failed from the point of view of farmers. Yes, it is a successful scheme in terms of earning for insurance companies. As the figures are telling, only one third of the farmers know about this scheme, while the insurance amount is often deducted by the bank to all the accounts without informing the farmer. The ignorance of the farmers is very pleasing to the cunning insurance companies. Private insurance companies have earned ₹3000 crore under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana in the year ended March 2018. The definition of loss of crops due to natural calamity is so complex, hardly any farmer gets the amount of insurance whereas there is no such crop in which there is no loss due to some or the calamity. This is the reason that one third of the farmers do not know about insurance and almost the same number of farmers do not want to get insurance. Fertilizer, electricity, diesel, seeds are all becoming very expensive. In such a situation, if the crop earned by sweating is destroyed in flood or drought, then it is a death knell for the poor farmer. So many of them end everything by killing themselves by hanging. This is the reason that Punjab never joined the Prime Minister’s Fasal Bima Yojana. Bihar, West Bengal and Gujarat of the ‘Gujarat model’ got separated from it. Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Jharkhand have given notices of separation from this scheme from 2020. The rest of the states are also thinking of their own good in getting out of it. There is a peculiar feature of the working style of fascists. They only need to grab the head line and never bother to see what actually happened to the announced scheme. Modi government never took trouble to examine crop insurance scheme.
Crops Ruined by Natural Calamities – Poverty and Suicides of Poor Farmers
Our country has made such a stormy progress in agriculture during 75 years of independence that in one year from July 2018 to June 2019, 85% of jowar and 64% of cotton crop get ruined due to lack of rain. After seeing these figures, the first reaction that comes to mind is that how many farmers are still there who are not ready to quit, howsoever painful the adversities of their life may be. How does a farmer whose three-fourth crop has been destroyed, live? The very thought sends a chilling sensation down the spine. A ‘leaked’ data from 2011-12 to 2017-18 confirms that there has been 9% decline in people’s food consumption in this 6-year period. Such dire is the reality in this country and this is not for nothing that India stands 101st among 116 nations on the World Hunger Index way behind all our neighbors. People are dying of starvation but slowly. The crop of 60.6% of the farmer families growing arhar dal has been ruined due to some reason or the other. The annual consumption of arhar in the country is 21 lakh tons, of which 60.6% comes to 12.7 lakh tons. The price of tur dal is ₹175 per kg. Value of ruined arhar dal itself comes to ₹22,225 crore!! Will the government compensate for this? Can any industrialist tolerate such losses? Has the Modi government, which does not feel ashamed of calling itself Vishwa Guru, worked on a single irrigation project? The percentage of crop losses due to lack of rain alone is more than 50%. The wounds of the farmers are, therefore, very deep. Stakes are very high. The question is that of their life and death. This is the reason they are not prepared to leave the fronts on Delhi borders even after more than 610 people have been martyred in the last ten months and even after the government has gone mad with frustration and wants to crush them under its vehicles.
Absurd Hindutva Policies Destroyed the Farmers’ Income from Animal Husbandry
The above figures reveal several important facts. First; Landless households having negligible land (less than a quarter acre) earn monthly income of ₹9982 whereas marginal farmers who are divided into two categories; having land up to one acre and up to two and a half acres earn an income of only ₹ 6388 and ₹ 6951 respectively. The monthly income of the small farmer family is also ₹ 9189. This means that a landless laborer family earns more than the marginal and small farmer. Not only this, income from wages is also the main item in the total income of marginal and small farmers whereas income from crops is negligible. In a way, it can be said that the area of 5 acres is the break-even point of profit. Please remember that 86% of farmers fall below this and not only this number is increasing as per inherent rules of capitalism but the rate of increase is also increasing. If the new agriculture laws are implemented, not only will this segment disappear in a jiffy, but the segments above it will also come down and they will also have the same fate as is happening with every small agricultural capital.
When farming is unprofitable, the first choice of farmers is to survive through rearing of milk animal. The income from animal husbandry was only 4.3% in the total income of farmers in 2002-03, which increased to 11.9% in 2012-13 and further increased to 15.7% in 2018-19. That means in 16 years, it increased by 365%. There are two types of income from animal husbandry; by selling milk and selling cattle. This business could have grown even more, but after the BJP government came to power, the income from selling animals has disappeared because in the name of ‘cow protection’, absurd laws are enacted as this issue is being used by the BJP-Sangh to shine its politics of polarization. This is, simultaneously, giving rise to another very serious problem. When the milk animals run dry, they are being sold and the farmers are unable to raise them. The result is herds of stray animals roaming the villages, fields and roads which are destroying the crops and are becoming driving hazards. Farmers are extremely furious at this state of affairs. It would be pertinent to mention here that the reason for the terrible accident that took place in Pilibhit on 6th September was that a stray cow suddenly came on the road and trying to save it, the bus collided with the truck and 15 people died. Stray roaming animals have become main cause of life-threatening accidents.
Farmers are Drowning in Debt
The result of declining income from agriculture is being reflected in increasing debt levels of the farmers. They are drowned in debt across the category. Ratio of increasing fixed capital in the machine-tractor and other equipment which results in a decreasing rate of profit per unit according to the laws of capitalism, is accompanied by a severe uncertainty in the sale price and impracticality of storing agricultural produce. The harsh reality of the produce being severely affected by recurring natural calamities for which there is no cure today is adding to their destitution. All these factors are increasingly making agriculture a loss-making proposition. We have already seen (Table 2) that the MSP is available to less than a quarter of the farmers. Government is hell bent to do away with that even and offer entire agriculture sector to the corporate to ravage and loot and make rural India a hunting ground of corporate crocodiles. Modi government is so adamant on this that it is not prepared to even talk to the agitating farmers. There has been no meeting since January 22nd, 2021. Farmers are not so ignorant or naïve not to be able to see through the game. This is the reason why farmers are ready to go to any extent to prevent the implementation of the new agricultural laws.
Condition of the Working Class
- Worker/Population Ratio: It means how many people work out of the total population; Country ratio is 35.3%. Meaning that about one third of the population is engaged in production. In rural part – males 52.1% and females 19.0% while in urban areas – males 52.7% and females 14.5% are engaged in production. This means that women work in greater numbers in rural areas than in cities. In all agricultural labor families, marginal and small farmer families, women are required to work compulsorily. Then only they can afford to survive.
- This report provides another very interesting statistic; in the rural sector in 2018-19, men 46.8% and women 53.2% only of the total workers are engaged in agriculture. It is yet again confirmed that number of working women is higher than men. This also means that agriculture is unprofitable, so men have to do some work in the nearby city-town other than farming, while women have to keep doing the same non-profitable work of farming due to non-availability of the alternative.
- Another significant data puts entire labor department of government in dock. As much as, 53.8% of the salaried workers/employees even in the non-agricultural sector do not get any paid leave. Whenever they take leave, their salary is deducted; out of these men are 54.7% and women are 50.6%. Similarly, more than half of total wage earners do not have any social security, labor rights whatsoever. Their number is 51.9% of which 51.2% are males and 48.8% are females. Average daily wage in rural areas is only ₹277 for a male worker and ₹170 for a female worker; whereas in urban area, male worker gets ₹342 and female worker gets ₹205 as an average daily wage. This means that if the rule of accountability is really implemented, then all the officers of the Labor Department including the Labor Minister, Labor Commissioner will be arrested!!
- Magnitude of unemployment: Please note that these figures pertain to July 2018 to June 2019, that is, before the Corona pandemic. Total unemployment rate – 5.8%; Men – 5.6% and women 7.1% are unemployed. Unemployment rate is 11.0% in over age 15 category; Male 11.2% rural area and 10.8% urban area. In the age group between 15-29, the unemployment rate was 16.6% for rural males and 13.8% for rural females. Among educated people, 18.7% of urban males and 25.7% of females were unemployed in 2017-18.
Some Other Significant Points of the Report
- Rural households having land less than 2.5 acres are 83.5%. On the other hand rich farmer families having land more than 25 acres are only 0.2%.
- Literacy (above 7 years of age): rural part- males 82.2%, females 66.3%; Urban area- Male 91.8%, Female 83.0%.
- Among agricultural households, regular wage workers are 7.7% and those who have to live on casual wages are 14.2%. On the other hand, non-agricultural households (subsistence from other than agriculture, animal husbandry etc.) who are required to work as wage workers regularly are 17.7% and those who have to work wage workers casually are 48.6%.
- Totally landless households are 17.4%.
- A total of 16.4% of rural households make their living by selling milk.
- The average annual income from all the crops cultivated per family is only ₹50807.
- 42.2% of the total agricultural households are those who do not have the necessary technical facilities, they have to depend on others for it.
- In non-agricultural households, total average monthly net income of 6.3% of the households is only ₹641, 15.5% of the households engaged in animal husbandry have a total average monthly net income of ₹1582 and 37.2% of the farmer households engaged in agriculture have an average monthly net income of ₹3798 only.
- Among agricultural households, 50.2% are in debt and the average loan per family is ₹74121.
- In 2002-03, 45.8% of the total income of farmers used to come from agriculture. In the year 2018-19, it has come down to 37.7%. Interestingly, the production per hectare has increased significantly during the same period. Naturally, the reason for this is the fall in the prices of the agricultural produce.
- Wage income to farmers which was 38.7% in 2002-03 has increased to 40.3% in 2018-18.
- Every day 2052 farmers of the country are forced to leave agriculture and become laborers.
What Should Be Done to Overcome the Insurmountable Crisis of Agriculture?
Huge collective farms, spread over millions of acres are to be formed. Farming should be done with state-of-the-art machines, maximum and latest mechanization, modernization of infrastructure through scientific method. The rivers originating from the majestic Himalayas have limitless water resources, from which canals need to emerge, so that there is less dependance on ground water for irrigation. Yes, tube wells in sufficient numbers have to be there as an alternative means of irrigation when needed. Working hours of agricultural laborers should not exceed 6 per day, together with two weekly holidays and one month leave every year for traveling around the country and abroad. Pension and all social security after the age of 60 are to be there for each and every worker. Government should buy all the produce at predetermined prices. Broad based 5- year plans are to be planned in consultation with trade unions of the agricultural workers. This plan should have details about crop to be sown for coming years. Latest scientific advice be made available at farm level in which representatives of agricultural workers have to participate at every level. The government should provide fertilizers, seeds, technical knowledge, medicines etc. free of cost. Agricultural scientists do continuous research on how to increase yield and replace human labor with machines, so that production increases progressively and working in agriculture becomes convenient and enjoyable. Every natural calamity should have a correct factual assessment and its 100% compensation should be immediately made available. It should be the responsibility of the government to provide nutritious and adequate food to entire population. Huge dairy farms should be built along with agricultural farms so that milk, dairy products along with fruits, vegetables are made available to the cities in pure organic form. Responsibility of transport and distribution should be of that of government, so that there is complete freedom from poisonous dairy products, fruits, vegetables. All necessary food items have to be available in abundance at large community purchase centers located in every colony. Every collective agricultural farm has to be accompanied by community centers for sports and recreation, cultural centers, sports facilities, swimming pools where agricultural workers can improve their health. At the local level itself, schools, colleges, universities should be there as per the need where every child can study as much as he wants and whatever he wants. Each farm has to have a huge library where newspapers, magazines and books from all over the world are available. Hospitals with latest amenities and medicines should be available at all times with every form. All these features have to be absolutely free. Overall goal should be to do away with any distinction between urban and rural life.
This is not a dream. It has happened and it has to happen in future also, today or tomorrow. World is not going to end with capitalism, even if its paid intellectuals think so. Does anybody know where the descendants of feudal lords have gone? All that glamour, clamor and extravagance of their courts stands reduced to dust. The off spring of those Badshah Salamats and Jille Ilahis are selling paan-gutkas on the nooks of Chandni Chowk!! Could anyone has imagined this in sixteenth century. The same fate is awaiting these corporates sitting on the mountains of unpaid labor. Expropriators have to be expropriated without fail, howsoever hard they may try to escape. We have seen that happening in Soviet Union, how in 1917 a country that was even more backward than us, where half the people used to die of hunger and in 30 years became the world’s leading agricultural producer, There were no unemployed, no beggars, no uneducated, no women had to sell their bodies to make ends meet. Where half the area is covered with snow throughout the year, how did that country become an exporter of agricultural produce and a country providing help to the needy the world over. In fact, there is no middle ground.
The crisis of agriculture is systemic and it is not going to be solved without shattering this system. There is no alternative. This is the only way forward for the future. Only socialist system and collectivization of agriculture can remove the noose of troubles from around the farmers’ neck. The capitalist system is rotten, stinking. It is crying for a decent burial. It tolerated small capital for this long because the crisis was not terminating as now. It used to visit periodically and used to end with limited destruction. Now this system is neck deep in trouble, the crisis no longer goes away, it gets deeper and deeper. It has taken recourse to naked fascism as a desperate last resort to evade the inevitable. This is the era of monopoly financial capital which devours even the giant capital, leave alone the small capital. The hunger of monopolistic financial capital is quenched only by its culling. Now it has only destruction and devastation to offer and nothing else. It can now survive a few days only by crushing people under vehicles as in Lakhimpur Khiri. Farmers will have to accept this harsh reality that option of ‘some middle way’ which the petty bourgeois class has always been looking for, is now closed once and for all. Workers and peasants will have to enter this decisive historical struggle for liberation from capital and they can bring about this revolution.