Agriculture Minister claims farmers' income has doubled, then ties himself in knots
Days after Union home minister Amit Shah, who also helms the cooperation portfolio, sought the support of Agricultural Rural Development Banks (ARDBs) in fulfilling Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promise of doubling farmers’ income, the Centre informed the Lok Sabha that this enormous goal had already been achieved.
The Modi government had promised in its Union Budget 2016 that income of farmers across the country will be doubled by 2022 i.e. this year. While farmers across the country continue to reel under increasing debt burden and estimates put out by the government’s own National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) show no substantial increase in what the peasantry earns from its agricultural activity, Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar claims “the income of the farmers is continuously improving; it has been seen that it has more than doubled”.
The claim was made by Tomar in a reply to a series of questions asked by Congress MP Manish Tewari. Tewari, the MP from Anandpur Sahib constituency in Punjab, had asked “whether farmers’ income has doubled in the last six years” as declared by the government in 2016. Tewari pointed out that the Centre-appointed Committee on Doubling Farmers’ Income (DFI) had benchmarked monthly income of farmers at Rs 8,059 in 2015-2016 (the base year) and so, DFI after adjusting for inflation would stand at Rs 21,146 in 2022.
Listing Modi govt initiatives
Tomar’s reply, tabled in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, listed a series of initiatives taken by the Modi government since 2016 to achieve DFI and concluded, “these schemes are yielding huge results and the income of the farmers is continuously improving. It has been seen that it has more than doubled.”
The minister added that Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) had recently released a book to mark 75 years of India’s independence, which “contains compilation of success stories of 75,000 farmers out of innumerable successful farmers who have increased their income more than two times”.
Curiously though, Tomar made the claim of DFI being achieved while also quoting the latest NSSO data, which, as it happens, shows that the income of farmers had actually increased by just Rs 3,789 per month in the period between 2012-2013 and 2018-2019.
As such, while Tewari pointed out that achieving DFI in 2022 should have meant a monthly farmers’ income pegged at Rs 21,146 in 2022, Tomar conceded that the monthly farmer income in 2018-2019, as per the government’s own data, was just Rs 10,218 till two years ago. The minister did not explain how then did monthly farmers’ income spike so substantially in the past two years if, by his own admission, it stood far short of the expected benchmark in 2018-2019.
Incidentally, several agricultural experts have held the view that the estimated monthly income of farmers, as laid out under the NSS situation assessment surveys, is misleading as it also factors in a household’s non-agricultural income. Thus, even the Rs 10,218 per month income of agricultural households estimated by the NSSO for the year 2018-2019, though a near 59 per cent hike over the 2012-2013 estimates, does not portray with accuracy the actual agrarian income of a farmer.
To Tewari’s question on whether the NSSO’s 77th Round of Situation Assessment Survey of Agricultural Households released in 2021 underscores farmers’ monthly income at only Rs 10,218 per month, Tomar replied in the affirmative. “The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (National Statistical Office) conducted a Situation Assessment Survey of Agricultural Households during NSS 70th round (January 2013- December 2013) with reference to the agricultural year July 2012-June 2013 and during NSS 77th round (January 2019-December 2019) with reference to the agricultural year July 2018- June 2019 in the rural areas of the country. From these surveys, estimated average monthly income per agricultural household, as obtained from NSS 70th round (2012-13) and NSS 77th round (2018-19), were calculated as Rs 6,426 and Rs 10,218, respectively,” stated Tomar’s reply tabled in the Lok Sabha.
Taking to Twitter, Tewari said he found the agriculture minister’s claim “astounding” and that “if the matter wouldn’t have concerned lives & livelihoods of 82 crore Indians it would have been laughable” (sic).