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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 14, New Delhi, March 20, 2021

Kisan Mandi: Myths and realities | Atanu Sengupta & Asish Kumar Pal

Friday 19 March 2021

by Atanu Sengupta and Asish Kumar Pal

Abstract:

This study is undertaken to provide the effect of the selling activities at ‘Kisan Mandi’ for standard of living status of rural agricultural households across different social classes and landholding size classes for the state of West Bengal in 2020.The study also identifies the major issues that are confronted by the rural farming households in their endeavour to increase income from farming and allied activities. Based on the survey findings, the study shows the real importance of ‘Kisan Mandi’ for quick improvement in the rural earning scenario for the selected villages as well as for the state. The findings of this study may provide important directions for “Doubling of Farmers’ Income by 2022” —an announced goal of the Government of India. According to standard official classification of landholding classes in India the study finds that an overwhelming majority of the farmers in West Bengal are not “large” but “marginal” and “small”.

Key words: Kisan Mandi, land, holding, farmers, marginal, small, large, crops, agricultural

Introduction:

Agriculture is the main occupation in rural Bengal as well as rural India. As per recent government reports, agriculture employed more than 50% of the Indian workforce and contributed 17- 18% to country’s GDP. So agriculture sector is the most priority sector in Indian economy and it has major contribution to GDP in our economy. An estimated 44 percent of the active workforce in the state is engaged in agriculture either as primarily cultivators or agricultural labourers (NSSO, 2014).There are many ‘Kisan Mandi’ which are located in the villages of India. Generally the rural farmers sell their productive crops in the nearest ‘Kisan Mandi’ in expectation of a little gain than the other markets. Actually these mandis are established by the government to provide the ‘Minimum Support Price’ of crops to the rural farmers. Academic output in the form of commentaries and research articles has started pouring in since the Government’s announcement of “Doubling of Farmers‟ Income by 2022” as a target (Mandal et al, 2017; Singh, 2018). It is acknowledged that West Bengal is a predominantly agrarian state in our economy. This state basically produce the paddy, wheat and next the potatoes and also some seasonal vegetables. Although leading in production of many agricultural commodities, the income of the farming households in the state is one of the lowest in the country due to low average land endowments (Mandal et. al, 2017)

Study Objectives and Designing:

We have selected four villages of West Bengal in our study. The set of objectives of this study required a very careful selection of rural households across these villages. These villages are totally based on agricultural activities (like potato and paddy production). We have taken 300 farmers who are directly produce paddy, potatoes and some other vegetables. They generally sell paddy to same ‘Kisan Mandi’ in the block (Arambagh) of Hooghly district in West Bengal. We have divided the farmers into three categories Viz. large farmers, small farmers and marginal farmers. In the present study we concentrate on these 300 stratified farmers of the selected villages.

Table 1: Distribution of sampled farmers on the basis of land holding

Categories of Farmers No of farmers
Marginal (1-4 acre) 100
Small (5-10 acre) 100
Large (> 10 acre) 100

(Source: Primary Data)

The study has been carried out with an intensive field survey of sample household to address the specific objectives

  • To understand the importance of ‘Kisan Mandi’ to rural farmers.
  • To unravel the pattern of sales to ‘Kisan Mandi’
  • To identify the specific bottlenecks that are limiting their opportunities to income enhancement as a beneficiary of the ‘Kisan Mandi’.

Description of household survey:

It is necessary to have an idea of the broad socio-economic profile of the sample households across the four surveyed villages. Table: 2. describes the distribution of household size, age, and sex and education level of the household head across the four survey villages. The table shows that marginal farmers (mostly deprived) are having a relatively a marginally lower average landholding. Also, the average number of years of schooling of the household head is lowest for this section. This is in conformity with the conventional idea that the marginal farmers group is relatively backward and it might need a bigger household size and worse housing condition. From the following table marginal farmers are basically tenant farmers who are engaged with cultivation for a long year. Large farmers are generally in better condition than small and marginal.

The plight of the marginal land holders (mostly poorest section) can be detected from their overdependence on the very small plot of land they have. A small percentage of such households are engaged in non-agro-related activities. On the other hand, small farmers have more diversified livelihood pattern. The large farmers again mostly depend on agriculture. But their non-agro activities are more remunerative than the small farmers. This is evidenced by their better representation in government and private institutions and business.

Our analysis regarding consumption-wage ration shows that it is very high among the marginal farmers. It also shows that the additional opportunity for income from any other source is very low in the smaller groups as compared to the larger group.

Other intricate details of household composition and endowments, though partially collected, are not being reported here as they might not be very useful for this particular report. However, it might be interesting to have a glimpse of the penetration of banking habits and the availability of Aadhar number among the survey marginal land holding farmers, since most of the government assistance programmes in India these days are channelized through banks linked with the beneficiaries’ Aadhar number. This is described in Table-4

It is seen that almost 79 percent of marginal farmers in these villages have at least one bank account (including recently opened Jandhan accounts) and over 80 percent of the sample of them have Aadhar numbers. While the distribution of Aadhar numbers is fairly comparable across all the categories of farmers of survey villages, the banking habits are not that homogeneous across them. Group of large farmers has more banking penetration than the marginal farmers. So the marginal farmers are deprived to benefit from the several government schemes. Large farmers have more ‘Kisan Credit Card’ holders than others. Almost 90% of the farmers have been registered under the scheme of ‘Krishak-Bandhu’ and ‘Prime Minister Kisan Samman Nidhi’. But the marginal farmers (82%) have registered more than others under ‘MGNREGS’ scheme.

As the ‘Kisan Mandi’ purchases a specific high amount so the beneficiaries are more large farmers (87%) than small (63%) and marginal (21%). The respondent beneficiaries are tabulated in the table 5. This proves that marginal land holding farmers taking a lower amount of crops capacity are not benefited by selling to the ‘Kisan Mandi’. Therefore, not being a registered beneficiary of ‘Kisan Mandi’ they are forced to depend on the middlemen or traders to sell their crops.

Table 5: Distribution of Registered land holders under beneficiary of ‘Kisan Mandi’

Types of farmers Beneficiary Non beneficiary
Marginal(100) 21 79
Small (100) 63 37
Large (100) 87 23

(Source: Primary Data)

Large farmers (84%) basically sell their crops to the nearest ‘Kisan Mandi’. More than 50 percent of small land holders only sell to mandi and almost all the marginal land holders (87%) do not sell the crops to ‘Kisan Mandi’ at all.

Table 6: Crop sales to ‘Kisan Mandi’

Types of farmers Sell to kisan Mandi Do not sell to kisan Mandi
Marginal (100) 13 87
Small (100) 54 46
Large (100) 84 16

(Source: Primary Data)

There is another subjective question is put to the all type of farmers regarding the selling of all varieties of crops to the village mandi. Most of the farmers from all the categories have responded that nearest mandi does not accept crops other than paddy. This is a big chunk that 22 percent of marginal farmers have no idea about this.

Table 7: Types of Crop sold to Kisan Mandi

Types of farmers Only paddy   sales other than paddy No idea
Marginal (100) 78 2 22
Small (100) 82 00 18
Large (100) 90 05 05

(Source: Primary Data)

Most marginal farmers (89%) and small farmers (61%) sell their crops to businessmen and traders or middlemen. So, Minimum Support Price (MSP) from the government is not realised by the small and marginal farmers. Only the large farmers sell to the ‘Kisan Mandi’ and achieve the gain. Table 8 may not match with Table 8 because they are non-exclusive. It is possible for a framer to sell some of its products to ‘Kisan Mandi’ and the rest to middlemen.

 Table 8: Distribution of Sales to the other businessmen and middlemen across land holding classes

Types of farmers Sells Does Not sell
Marginal (100) 89 11
Small (100) 61 39
Large (100) 18 82

(Source: Primary Data)

Marginal (57%) and small (63%) land holders have responded that they gain sometimes by selling their crops in other markets instead of selling to ‘Kisan Mandi’. Even large farmers (83%) have opined the same expression. It is interesting to note that a significant number of them want to diversify into other trade or commercial market than mandi.

Table 9: Estimated Price of crops from kisan Mandi is more than other markets in any time 

Types of farmers More price in other markets Less price other markets
Marginal (100) 57 33
Small (100) 63 37
Large (100) 83 17

(Source: Primary Data)

During the survey, each respondent was asked about their awareness regarding some major assistance programmes relating to agriculture. The respondents‟ awareness level has been judged by the interviewer and one is marked as “aware‟ against a specific programme/scheme if he/she is able to tell the eligibility criteria and the nature of benefits correctly. The following table (10) shows that, except for Kisan Credit Card, the awareness level for other major centrally sponsored assistance schemes is abysmally low by the marginal and small farmers than large among the respondents.

Table10: Sources of awareness for major Assistance Programmes by the Government

Classes of Farmers Kishan Credit Card PradhaMantri Fasal BimaYojna Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojna Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchay Yojna Krishi Samabaiy Saniti
Marginal (100) 62 58 13 17 48
Small (100) 88 87 41 45 63
Large (100) 93 88 56 59 77

(Source: Primary Data)

As the marginal farmers are not benefited from the ‘Kisan Mandi’ so they (57%) think there is not required it in their villages. Small farmers (49%) also do not want to remain it in the rural areas. Only a large portion of large farmers (83%) thinks its a necessity because they get the maximum benefit from it. It is observed that only around 40 percent of total survey households answered this question in a concrete way.

Table 11: Households’ expectation regarding the Necessity of Kisan Mandi in rural area

Types of farmers Necessity  Not necessity No idea
Marginal (100) 13 57 30
Small (100) 32 49 19
Large (100) 83 13 05

(Source: Primary Data)

This result has to be interpreted cautiously. Some apologists might claim that this indicates the futility of ‘Kisan Mandi’ and it should be given up. This might be akin to the attitudes of marauding army who destroyed the Great Library of Alexandria or those who publicly lynched and killed the woman scientist and philosopher Hypatia. The mob thought science and books were luxury. It was of no use to them. So they destroyed it and ushered the era of darkness. It is true that the marginal and small farmers have not been able to understand the benefit of ‘Kisan Mandi’. But that does not mean that the benefits of ‘Kisan Mandi’ should not be extended to them.

Conclusion:

As the large farmers are most benefited farmers from the rural ‘Kisan Mandi’ other than small and marginal farmers, they want to sell to these mandies. They do not sell to the other agencies or traders. On the other hand small and marginal land holders want to sell to the other traders or businessmen in expectation of higher price. Even they want to come back in tenant or contact farming due to better price. Most of the small respondent farmers also have opined that they are eager to sell their productive crops in anywhere while they will get best price. Their hapless condition can be gathered from this. We should not try to usher logic from these fates of desperation as some apologists might do. Rather we should try to enrol them into the benefit of assured price and some sort of grace.

References:

Agricultural Statistics at a Glance (2016), Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers Welfare, Directorate of Economics and Statistics. Government of India, https://www.eands.dacnet.nic.in
Department of Agriculture, Government of West Bengal, https://www.wb.gov.in
Lanjouw P. & A. Shariff (2004): Rural Non-Farm Employment in India: Access, Incomes and Poverty Impact, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 39, No. 40, pp. 4429-4446
Mandal S., D. Burman, U.K. Mandal, T.D. Lama, B. Maji& P.C. Sharma (2017): Challenges, Options and Strategies for Doubling Farmers‟ Income in West Bengal —Reflections from Coastal Region, Agricultural Economics Research Review, Vol. 30, pp 89-100
NSSO report (2014), https://www.mospi.nic.in

(Authors: Dr Atanu Sengupta, Professor, Economics Department, Burdwan University, West Bengal, India | E-mail: sengupta_atanu[at]yahoo.com

And

Dr Asish Kumar Pal, Assistant Professor, Economics Department, Tarakeswar Degree College, Tarakeswar, Hooghly, West Bengal, India E-mail: asish.kr.pal[at]gmail.com

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