In order to be able to meet both ends of life, a farmer household has to possess about 4.01 hectares of land. Only a little more than 5 per cent of farmer households owned this much of land. More than 66 per cent of farmers? households had land of area less than one hectare. More than 48 per cent of farmer households were indebted. About 35 per cent of the borrowings were for consumption purposes or for marriages and ceremonies. There was only one tractor per 100 ST or SC farmer households, while for OBCs, there were three tractors and for others 5 tractors. About 96 per cent of farmers had never insured their crops. Only 19 per cent had availed themselves of services from cooperatives. A majority (60 per cent) of households never accessed any information on modern technology in farming.
The above figures are not that of the condition of peasants in the pre-independent India. They reflect the condition of Indian peasantry in the year 2003. The book titled Condition of Indian Peasantry by G.S. Bhalla is based on the five reports of the 59th round of the Survey by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO). It provides a detailed analysis of the condition of Indian farmers. The book has 52 chapters, each providing information on various aspects of farmers? households, comparing their condition with other rural households. It has 52 tables and 21 figures that capture multiple inter-state and class and social dimensions of the farmers. The book highlights the dismal state of affairs regarding knowledge and awareness of farmers. The book makes a clean statement that the agriculture is in serious crisis.
The author recommends for providing top priority to rejuvenate the extension services such as Krishi Vigyan Kendras, by increasing the role of Panchayati Raj Institutions in the monitoring responsibilities. It also stresses the need for increasing the availability of timely institutional credit and larger investment in research and technology.
It was also clearly stated that diluting the legislation on ceilings on landholdings may be disastrous ?because in a country where small and marginal farmers constitute about 80 per cent of the landholders, it would be disastrous to endanger their only source of livelihood?. The author recommends giving homestead land to landless farmers as a matter of priority.
The book provides a very good analysis on Indian agricultural sector in simple and lucid manner. It will be an important source of information for policy makers, legislators, bureaucrats, planners and students. As the book uses the official data, it will be a reliable set of data for NGOs and civil society groups for advocacy purpose.
(National Book Trust, F-79, Green Park, New Delhi-110 016.)