Chandigarh: Every third farmer in Punjab (34.26 per cent) is living below the poverty line (BPL), going by the criterion specified by an expert group set up by the Planning Commission.
As per The Tribune report, the study on indebtedness among farmers and agricultural labourers has been conducted by Dr Gian Singh and Anupama Uppal, both Professors in the Economics Department of Punjabi University, Patiala, and Gurinder Kaur, a researcher.
Dr Gian Singh has been working on the issues of small, marginal and landless labourers for the past several years.
“It’s most worrisome that this is happening in the land of the Green Revolution,” said Dr Gian Singh, sharing the study report with media.
The percentage of agricultural labourers under BPL, on the basis of this study, is 82.06. The expert group lays down that persons having annual per capita income below Rs 25,683.84 per annum (Rs 2,140 per month), are in the BPL category. If one pegs the poverty line at 50 per cent of the state per capita income, 66.14 per cent of the farmers and 99.67 of the agriculture labourers fall in this category in the state.
A key reason for the mounting burden of debt on farmers and landless labourers in rural areas is the gulf between the average annual income and average consumption expenditure. The average earning per farm household is Rs 2.91 lakh per annum in rural Punjab, while the average consumption expenditure is Rs 3.35 lakh. There is also the expenditure on production, such as the cost of inputs — seeds, fertilisers etc. That gap makes farming unviable for marginal, small, semi-medium and medium farmers, leading to the debt burden.
The debt is Rs 65,169 per operated acre for marginal farmers (Rs 55,573 and Rs 52,839 for small and semi-medium farmers, respectively). It is lesser in the case of large and medium farmers.
The landless labour is the most affected as it takes money from non-institutional sources. As many as 99 per cent of such labourers pay the highest rate of interest as they do not own property to give guarantee against the loan to be taken from banks. About 33 per cent of the farmers take loans from money lenders.
The study concludes that 86 per cent of the farmer families and 80 per cent of labourers are under debt in Punjab.