Grassroots Reachout & Networking in India on Trade & Economics (GRANITE)
Rajasthan First Outreach Meeting
Chittorgarh District, Rajasthan, September 14, 2005
CUTS Centre for Consumer Action, Research & Training (CUTS-CART) convened the First Outreach Meeting under the GRANITE project at the Conference Hall of Panchayat Samiti Block Nimbahera, District Chittorgarh, Rajasthan, on September 14, 2005. The meeting primarily focused on Agriculture Sector.
The participants in Outreach Meeting included groups of farmers, farm labours, panchayati raj (local self-government) members, self-help groups (SHGs), community leaders and block level officials. There were 50 participants out of which half of them were women.
The prime objectives of the meeting were:
- to gather existing perceptions at the grassroots with regard to issues relating to agriculture sector in purview of the globalisation and World Trade Organisation (WTO);
- to identify the anti-poor impact of the existing policies; and
- to assemble them to a common platform where they could share their present livelihood concerns.
Nimbahera is a sub-divisional and block headquarter of the Chittorgarh district. It has 35 village panchayats that cover 170 revenue villages. Nimbahera’s economy is mainly based on agriculture. And the agriculture trade of the block is spread across Madhya Pradesh, the neighbouring state in addition to different districts of Rajasthan.
The average rainfall in Nimbahera block is 78.15 mm and the main crops are wheat, maize, millet, sesame, mustard, linseed, peanut and soybean. The total cultivated area of the block is 22,220 hectares in which 20,592 hectares is irrigated land. Mostly, the irrigation is carried out through canals and the main source of water is Gambhiri dam.
Mainly, the livelihood of the inhabitants of Nimbahera depends on agriculture and farm labour. Nimbahera has a large agriculture Mandi (Wholesale market) at the block headquarter in which the farmers from other blocks of the district as well as other districts of the state come to sell their agriculture produce.
Highlights of the Outreach Meeting
A brief introduction of the participants showed that almost all the attendees are directly or indirectly involved in agriculture. However, a few of them are also engaged in animal husbandry, in addition to agriculture.
Shashi Prabha and Madan Giri Goswami, CUTS Centre for Human Development (CUTS-CHD), Chittorgarh briefed the objectives of the Outreach Meeting to the participants.
R K Sharma, CUTS, Jaipur introduced the session by appreciating the enthusiasm of the Nimbahera block officials for their support and explained why the changes in agricultural sector, due to globalisation and WTO regime, are happening in the world and to what extent the livelihood of the people is affected by different policies.
R K Sharma further elaborated that due to India being an agriculture-based country, agriculture has been always a concerned sector for the nation’s economy. He pointed out the crucial question of how the benefit providing impact is created within the country and what the reaction it will have on other parts of the globe. By several examples, he helped the participants understand the WTO interventions in country’s agriculture including information on forthcoming WTO Ministerial at Hong Kong. He encouraged the women participants to come out with their own understanding and perceptions on contemporary agriculture sector.
Prahalad Chatia, a Pradhan (Head), Block Nimbahera, presented his views on issues related to agriculture. His views are documented below:
Prahalad Chatia, by quoting the examples of ITC and Kargil Companies, briefed the advantages of open market for the farmers, in which middlemen will not be included in the whole process and the farmer will behave like a businessman.
Then he raised a few questions whether the participants were aware of the said market or do they have any idea of how to behave like a businessman, and how the farmers, without taking the help of middlemen, can earn more. Other questions included how to achieve these goals and why the farmers are keen to use the hand -made manure for growing crops than using chemical fertilizer etc. These questions led the issue of positive change for the livelihood.
Shashi Prabha and Madan Giri Goswami explained the above-mentioned issues in the local language in order to ease the process of interaction among participation to share farmers’ problems, and also present their demands before the government.
Voice from the Grassroots
Mangilal Gayri, a farmer from Tilak Hera, presented his concerns in the following words:
- Construction of new roads, and increased diesel price has indirectly affected the farmer community.
- Crops are grown here depending on the soil, but farmers never tried for sowing other crops.
Anubhav, a woman farmer, presented the following views:
- Now women have joined the agriculture sector by driving tractors and sowing crops.
- Male members, before taking decisions consult the female members.
- Cheating is rampant in the Mandis. And old manure is best for crops.
Prithviraj, ex-Sharpanj, voiced his views in the following words:
- Expenditure on agriculture inputs is rapidly increasing and limited farm insurance schemes are available to help the farmers.
- In place of one crop a year, three crops are sown, and for this, the farmers take the help from the moneylenders.
- Earlier the process of productivity was good but growth rate of production was low.
Sharik Ahmed, farmer, shared the following views:
- Formation of Kisan Credit Card is necessary. Loans from the bank are more effective than those from the moneylenders because bank forgives the interest to the farmers.
- Farm insurance has now helped some crops
Mangilal, farmer, voiced his experience in the following words:
- Seeds are available in sufficient quantity.
- Unlike the old farmers, the new generation seeks other sources of livelihood than the earning from agriculture.
- The rate of electricity should be fixed depending upon the size of the cultivated area.
Following are the general demands of the farmers from the government:
- Quality seeds at the cheaper rates and establishment of more number of seeds depot.
- High subsidies, crop insurance and effective supply of electricity.
- Policy needed for sowing and selling crops.
- Water as well as agriculture policy should be complementary to each other.
The following are the key issues emerged from the Outreach Meeting:
- Farmers neither have an idea of Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) nor of WTO and their related issues.
- The open economy will be beneficial for the farmers. The entry of Multinational Corporations (MNCs) for agricultural trading and farming is welcome. The subsidy on electricity and fertiliser is only for four months (Kharif season crops), but also for entire year.
- The agriculture produce marketing system is traditional and not much change has been introduced. The Mandi administration is corrupt.
- The access of women to agriculture sector has increased, and now women are also consulted on agriculture related decisions.
- Average crop yield has increased but simultaneously the input cost has also increased. Earlier, two crops were rarity but now they are growing at least three to four crops in a year.
- Earlier, the villages used to decide the crops selling prices but now the government is deciding the market prices. In agro-business negotiations the traditional system of fixing prices by villages was better convenient and reliable.
- All farmers are not availing loan facilities for agriculture except the big and influential ones. The crop insurance system is also not effective and there is no purpose to continue it with existing norms. Modern techniques in agriculture could not help changes and agriculture is still a gamble for farmer community.
- New generation of farmers is losing interest in agriculture. And farmers’ interest is shifting towards agriculture trading.
- Seeds in sufficient quantity are available are local level, but only to the big farmers, not the small ones who face financial problems. The seed sold by government agencies are good in quality but the availability is not assured in season. Fertilisers are mainly purchased from private agencies. The number of cattle has decreased in the villages.
- The farmers neither take their matters at the Panchayat nor at the district level. They are now emphasising on earlier manure system but not raising their voices against the modern fertilizers.
- Small farmers are earning on daily wages in industrial towns or doing small trading work. The trend of collaborative agriculture is increasing.
- The tubewells, which are another source of irrigation, has disturbed the entire cropping pattern and also the social pattern. The living standard of the farmers has improved.
- Maize, peanut, urad, wheat and millet are not remunerative crops. Linseed, oilseed and gram can give good results with less water, so farmers have started adopting the cultivation of such crops.
- The farmers’ demands from the government are: minimising input cost and the return, coherence in water and agriculture policies, improvement in warehouses conditions and capacities and widening of agriculture insurance coverage.