Per capita means of survival in rural India becoming scarce
By Dr Gyan Pathak
The latest situation assessment of agricultural households and land and holdings of other households in rural India made by the NSS 77th round has revealed that per capita means of survival in rural India is dwindling fast and both farm and non-farm households are in great distress. It was the situation in 2019, which the COVID-19 induced lockdowns and containment measures further exacerbated.
For the last several decades people from rural India have been migrating to urban areas for jobs, but the COVID-19 crisis had reversed this trend since the announcement of the general lockdown of the country on March 24, 2020. Business and industries in the urban areas shut down and the migrant workers were forced to return to their villages. It has further increased the burden on the rural areas, which was already not in a position to support the rural populace enforcing them to migrate. The returned migrant labours in millions have just increased the burden on both the agricultural and non-agricultural households.
The survey has estimated that there were 172.4 million families in rural India out of which 93.09 million were agricultural and 79.3 million were non-agricultural households, ie their percentage share in the rural population were 54 and 46 per cent respectively. However, 70.4 per cent agricultural households had less than one hectare land. This percentage was much higher at 98.9 per cent for non-agricultural households. Only 0.2 per cent rural households possessed more than 10 ha land, among them agricultural households were only 0.4 per cent while non-agricultural households were almost zero per cent.
Not all land holdings are operational. Estimated number of operational holdings in rural India is only 101.9 million, and average area per operational holding is 0.913 ha, while average area operated ie used for agricultural activities per operational holding was 0.833 ha. For agricultural households the number of operational holding was 89.5 million, and for non-agricultural household it was a meagre 12.3 millions. When we compare it with total holdings, it presents an alarming situation.
This small landholding had made their lives miserable although, among the self-employed, 68.9 per cent of agricultural households were engaged in crop production. About 2.3 per cent were in livestock farming, 0.6 per cent in other agricultural activities and 4.8 per cent in non-agricultural enterprise. Only 7.7 per cent were in regular waged or salaried employment, while 14.2 per cent were casual labour.
Non-agricultural households were much worse. Among the self-employed, only 14 per cent were engaged in non-agricultural enterprise, 6.1 per cent in crop production, 0.6 per cent in livestock farming, and only 1.1 per cent in other agricultural activities.
How precarious their conditions were can be imagined on the basis of this fact that average area owned per agricultural household was only 0.876 ha for agricultural household, while 2.6 per cent of them have become landless. Average area owned per non-agricultural household was only 0.086 ha, while 14.8 per cent had become landless. Thus average landholding per household in rural areas was only 0.512 ha, while 8.2 per cent had become landless.
The situation had worsened also due to marginal ownership of the majority, ie the people who had a landholding between 0.002 ha to one hectare. They were 76.5 per cent in the rural areas while only 0.1 per cent had large ownership, ie over 10ha of landholding. Agricultural households in marginal ownership were 70.4 per cent, and 83.7 per cent of non-agricultural households were in this category. Only 0.2 per cent agricultural households have large ownership, while non-agricultural households in this category were zero per cent. Marginal category operational holding was 72.6 per cent but operated area was only 31.7 per cent. The large category operational holding was only 0.3 per cent but the share of the operated area was 5.4 per cent. The percentage of tenant holding was 17.3 per cent while of area leased-in was 13 per cent. No one can fail to see the disturbing huge gap.
Average area owned by ST household was only 0.586 ha. SC households were far worse and they were owning only 0.242 ha. OBC households owned on an average 0.543 ha. Others were owning 0.677 ha, though more than any other social group, it is really too small a holding to maintain a family. Among total agricultural households STs were 14.2 per cent, SCs 15.9 per cent, OBCs 45.8 per cent and others 24.1 per cent.
When situation worsens, poor rural households lease out their land. From July to December 2018, 3.2 per cent of households had reported leasing out their land, which increased to 3.7 per cent during the next six months from January to June 2019. Average area leased out per household were 0.694 ha and 0.686 ha during the respective periods. About 5.5 million people lease out their land during the first six-months period which increased to 6.4 million in the second six-months period. The people deriving benefit of such miserable conditions by leasing were 13.9 per cent and 13.3 per cent respectively during the period against consideration. They leased in 0.481 ha and 0.476 ha respectively.
About 84 per cent of land was used only for crop production, 0.6 per cent only for farming of animals, 6 per cent for both, 0.7 per cent for other agricultural purposes, and 8.7 per cent for non-agricultural purposes.
Percentage of households reporting owning cattle were – milk 16.4 per cent, young stock 19.6 per cent, and others 12.5 per cent, while for buffalo these figures were 10.7, 11.7, and 5.4 per cent respectively. In-milk cattle per 100 household was only 22, and buffalo 15. About 10.7 per cent households reported owning poultry birds, and average number per 100 household was 134. Percentage of households reporting owning bovine and other mammals were 21.9 per cent, and their average number per 100 families were 189.
And if this anomaly was not enough, only 48.7 percent agricultural households could access technical advice during July-December 2018, which even reduced to 42.2 per cent in during the next six months in the first half of 2019. Average monthly income per agricultural household was only Rs 10,218 per month which included, income from wages Rs 4,063, from leasing out land Rs 134, from non-farm business Rs 641, from crop Rs 3,798, and from farming of animals Rs 1,582. =Since this level of expenditure and earning was not sustainable, 50.2 per cent of agricultural households had become indebted, and their average outstanding loan was Rs 74,121. Unfortunately, only 69.6 per cent of their loan was institutional, and the rest was taken from market at much higher rates of interest. Even the rates of institutional loans for them are higher than many other sectors, especially that is applicable for big industries.
The tribulations of the rural people, both agricultural and non-agricultural households, are numerous. PM Modi had promised them “good days” in 2014, but their conditions worsened by the time of the survey in 2019. It has further deteriorated in 2020 and 2021. The data speak for themselves and no argument is needed to prove the dismal performance of the Modi government. (IPA Service)