‘India needs to create more non-agriculture jobs for farmers’

November 13th, 2008 - 10:55 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 13 (IANS) With the share of the farm sector in the GDP declining, India should try to provide more non-agricultural jobs to create more opportunities for the surplus millions still dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods, says Abhijit Sen, member of the Planning Commission.”In India, the decline in the agricultural workforce has been slow compared to the decrease in the share of agriculture in the gross domestic product (GDP),” Sen told IANS in an interview.

“That clearly means we should try to provide more jobs in non-agriculture activities so that the pressure on agriculture from the population dependent on it declines,” he added.

According to him, there is nothing wrong if the share of agriculture in the GDP declines even as the economy expands. “This has happened in all countries and will happen in India too.”

But the problem, according to him, is that the number of people dependent on agriculture is not going down even as the agricultural sector is shrinking.

Sen, also a professor of economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), said: “We should not be concerned about the decline of the share of agriculture in the GDP, but should be concerned about the fact that the share of labour force in agriculture is not coming down commensurately.”

Several other economists share Sen’s opinion. Consortium of Indian Farmers Associations secretary general P. Chengal Reddy said there were “plenty of opportunities in rural areas to create more jobs for farmers”.

“Opportunities can be created for them (farmers) in the service sector in rural areas. They can work as electricians, carpenters, plumbers, or masons when they have no work,” Reddy told IANS.

“There is no full-time work in agriculture. Farmers work 100 to 150 days a year, and have no work for around 200 days for which jobs can be created,” he added.

India’s GDP, or its total market value of all final goods and services produced within a year, was officially estimated at Rs.31.14 trillion ($637.78 billion) for 2007-08.

The agriculture sector logged 4.5 percent growth last fiscal. The Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council has projected a growth rate of two percent for agriculture in the current fiscal.

Agriculture and allied sectors, which saw the average growth rate plummeting to 2.5 percent during 2002-07, is contributing around 18 percent to the country’s GDP as against 36.4 percent during 1982-83.

“We will certainly do better than two percent. In fact, I feel we will reach four percent in the current fiscal,” said Sen, adding agriculture growth was very slow between 1996 and 2004, when the growth rate dropped to two percent.

Devinder Sharma, a city-based food and agriculture policy analyst, underlines the need to provide direct income support to farmers.

“There is no other way out than to provide direct income support to farmers. The government should ensure a fixed monthly income for them,” said Sharma, also chairman of the Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security.

“Farmers get direct income support from the government in rich countries, say, the US, where the Farm Bill 2008 has a provision of $307 billion agriculture subsidy for the next five years,” Sharma told IANS.

In India only 40 percent farmers get benefit of a support price. “The rest does not, as they do not have surplus produce for sale,” he added.

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