Attabira (Bargarh): An economic survey by the Odisha government, a recent study by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) and some private studies hint at an increase in the rural income in the state. Stakeholders of the rural economy, however, have different claims.
Contrary to the claims made by the surveys, a large section of small and marginal farmers engaged in agriculture and allied sectors say that there is hardly any increase in income in rural areas and an appreciable change in their income seems a Utopian dream – thanks to the hike in the input costs. Even by the government’s own admission, 90 per cent of Odisha’s farmers are small and marginal peasants.
Orissa Post focused on the Attabira Block of Bargarh, a well irrigated region considered to be the rice bowl of the state to ascertain the ground reality. This correspondent interacted with various stakeholders in the block where paddy is considered to be the prime crop in terms of the magnitude of its production.
“There has been substantial increase in the costs of fertilizers, pesticides, seeds and even daily labourer wages. At times, even the monsoon is erratic. We have not seen any increase in the farmers’ income here in the last few years,” Purander Sahoo, a farmer from Bansipalli here told Orissa POST.
Another farmer of Dumberpalli village said that compared to the farmers, agricultural labourers better off as they have a fixed daily wage and do not need to care about output risks. Besides, their wages are being revised soon. He said that an agricultural labourer in the area now fetches around Rs 250 per day.
Panchanand Tripathy, a resident of the Bansipalli village who works with an insurance company in Bargarh, said, “Many farmers have quit agriculture. Now, these farmer-turned-middlemen, who work in selling foodgrains insurances, are earning good money. Even the traders in this area are doing well.
Nevertheless, some farmers claimed that integrated farming has helped them increase their income. Tikamani Sahu is one such farmer who practices integrated farming in his 10-acre farmland in Adagon village in the district.
He said, “Though paddy is the main crop in the area, we can’t rely on it totally for our income. My agricultural risks were reduced when I started growing alternate crops like mushrooms, vegetables and began rearing goats, in addition to fish farming. This way, our incomes has become stable and is also growing.” According to Sahu, around 30 per cent of the village is into integrated farming now and it is increasing.
Sahu said that like him most of the farmers in his village shunned buying luxury items and have invested more on tractors and farm equipment. “Most farmers in my area are procuring tractors and farm equipment during the last few years and this move has facilitated the agricultural process. Now we get a subsidy of Rs 90,000 for buying a tractor and one can also buy harvesters at subsidised prices.”
Monitoring agencies of the state government’s agro-based industries also believe that adopting alternate faming means has also helped to raise the income levels in rural Odisha. Subranshu Padhi, Managing Director of the Agricultural Promotion and Investment Corporation of Odisha Limited (APICOL), said, “More number of farmers are now getting involved in alternate income options like horticulture, fisheries and connecting to agro-based industries and food processing units. All these have helped them to overcome the risks associated with farming alone and also in multiplying their income.”
Manish Kumar, OP