21 June, 2021

Precarious Freedom

Something in Indian agriculture is being set free. But is it the farmer?

Photograph by PTI
Precarious Freedom

Thirty farmers on an average, according to government data, kill themselves every day in India—mostly after finding themselves trapped in a vicious circle of debt. And now the government has offered the Indian farmer some more freedom of the market. In this free market, somebody who owns less than 1 hectare of land and produces around 22 quintals of rice per season, for example, competes with those who own over 5 hectares and produce over 110 quintals. The farmer can choose the buyer, but the buyers—a commission agent, a corporate giant, a startup or the government—get to determine the price.

ALSO READ: So Shall They Reap

Another domain of India’s policy brush with free market in agriculture has been contract farming. Going by the controversies triggered by such attempts, the experience hasn’t been good. Last year, for instance, PepsiCo sued farmers in Gujarat for Rs 1 crore for illegally growing and selling a potato variety...

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