‘Farmer dignity’ is a term often used in meetings held in air-conditioned conference halls of five star hotels in the cities and metros. Everyone – none of them farmers – agrees the farmer must have a dignified life to sustain in the agriculture sector. They are worried about the massive flow of manpower from agriculture to other sectors. If farmers leave their fields, who will feed the rest of the world! The woes of being a farmer lead to his wards looking for jobs and other businesses. They see agriculture is not rewarding compared to the labour involved. Given a choice, a farmer’s son never becomes a farmer! This is the harsh reality. To bringing dignity to a farmer’s life a few reality checks are needed.

A farmer is commonly understood as a person who cultivates his own land grows crops and vegetables. But the least-talked-about fact is that most people, who are called farmers, are landless. They have a small plot where the house, if it can be called so, is located. At best, there is a kitchen garden. But cropland has become a distant dream for most of them. There are many reasons for it – increasing population, high debt, poor banking, increasing gap between rich and poor etc. These ‘farmers’ just work as labourers in the fields of landowners, who actually do not work in the field. He just supervises the work of the farmers. Yet on government record, he becomes the farmer and entitled to all benefits that are designed considering extreme poverty among those who actually grows the food that feeds the humanity.

The increasing gap between rich and poor are pushing the real farmers, who possess the skills, into the brink. Rather than having own land to till, they have to move from field to field seeking labour work. It’s the wage they survive on. Some even double up as traders. MGNREGA, PDS, IAY are their delight. And the policy makers hope to bring dignity to farmer’s life with such doles! Such schemes are making them more and more dependent. Their next generation will consider such schemes as their birth right! This is not to suggest that such schemes be discontinued. But address the moot problem of land. A farmer can never attain dignity by working in other’s field!

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on December 17, 2016)