Explained: Why Madhya Pradesh's Irrigation Expansion Plan Failed to Lift Farmer Incomes

Despite significant irrigation capacity growth in the state from 7.5 to 47 lakh hectares, farmers' incomes haven't risen as promised by the BJP government. It highlights a gap between infrastructure development and economic outcomes.
Explained: Why Madhya Pradesh's Irrigation Expansion Plan Failed to Lift Farmer Incomes
Pic- Dr D.Kumar

Bhopal- "Farmer empowerment ranks high among our priorities. Over the past decade, we have implemented several initiatives, including Soil Health Cards, micro-irrigation, crop insurance, seed accessibility and direct financial aid through PM Kisan Samman Yojana. Moreover, we have consistently raised MSP (minimum support price). Our commitment remains unwavering to further elevate the livelihoods of farming communities by augmenting their income."

This promise is a part of the Bharatiya Janata Party's pledge to farmers and is stated on page 21 of its manifesto.

The BJP has apparantly made extensive efforts to woo farmers, as seen in its manifesto for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections titled 'BJP's resolution and Modi's guarantee'. Similar to the previous vision documents of the party, new commitments have been made to prioritize farmers' welfare this election as well.

The BJP asserts that farmers' income will double under their administration. It has made 19 pledges for the agricultural farming community. However, despite the expansion of irrigation of agricultural fields in Madhya Pradesh, farmers' income has not seen a corresponding rise.

Since 2003, the state's irrigation capacity has grown from 7.5 lakh hectares to 47 lakh hectares. The government aims to further expand it to 65 lakh hectares by 2025 and to one crore hectares in the subsequent five years.

Though the irrigation hike has resulted into an increase in agricultural production, the peasants' income has not seen a proportional growth.

Before the imposition of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) in March, Chief Minister Dr. Mohan Yadav's Cabinet took several decisions aimed at doubling the farmers' income. Subsidies were allocated for agricultural equipments, electricity and other necessities. However, despite these efforts, certain deficiencies persist, hindering its aim.

According to a 2022 report from the Indian Statistical Office (NSO), the average monthly income of Madhya Pradesh farmers stood at Rs 8,339 in 2018-19 compared to Rs 9,740 in 2015-16. In terms of farmers' income, the state ranks 26th in the country.

While talking to The Mooknayak, Datia-based farmer Sonu Singh expressed concerns over diminishing resources despite increased efforts and crop yields. He said the prices received for crops do not match the rising costs, thereby, limiting the income. He highlighted the escalating expenses on fertilizers, tractors and pesticides, which, according to him, further strain farmers' finances.

Rahul Dhoot of the Bhartiya Kisan Sangh, an RSS-affiliated peasants' body, further highlighted the government's lack of significant initiatives to boost farmers' income.

Despite the expansion of irrigated land, the costs of fertilizers, pesticides and machinery essential for crop production have surged - contributing to stagnant farmer incomes. He emphasized the urgent need for government intervention to devise strategies aimed at reducing crop production costs, which will ultimately lead to higher farmer incomes.

'47 Hectares of Land Have Been Irrigated'

As per a report, the state has a total of 1.03 crore farmers, with agricultural land spanning 151.91 lakh hectares. Presently, the irrigated land covers 47 lakh hectares, a figure that is steadily rising. Despite this expansion, farmers' income remains stagnant.

Debt-Ridden Farmers

With no rise in income, farmers in Madhya Pradesh are grappling with mounting debt burdens. Thousands of them have availed loans through the Kisan Credit Card to finance their agricultural expenses.

However, without reaping sufficient benefits, many are unable to repay these loans. And as a result, they are turning defaulters. Hundreds of farmers now find themselves in a situation where the accrued interest surpasses the initial loan amount intended for farming purposes. On average, each peasant's family in the state carries a debt of Rs 74,000.

Situation in Other States

Meghalaya stands out with the highest monthly income of farmers, amounting to Rs. 29,348. This indicates a relatively favourable economic situation for agricultural workers in the state.

Following closely behind is Haryana, where farmers earn Rs 22,841 per month, showcasing another region with relatively higher agricultural incomes.

In Kerala, Uttarakhand, Karnataka and Gujarat, farmers earn Rs 17,915, Rs 13,552, Rs 13,441 and Rs 12,631 respectively, reflecting variations in agricultural prosperity across different states.

Despite these income levels, the overall scenario of farmers' income across the nation remains a matter of concern. The lack of significant increases in their earnings has led many to explore alternative sources of livelihood.

Some farmers are compelled to leave their traditional agricultural work and seek employment in other areas, either locally or by migrating to different states.

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