Pathetic Condition of the Sharecroppers: A Micro-Analysis
20 Dec, 2017
Small and marginal farmers (who typically own or operate less than two hectares) do sharecropping to supplement their income as they own low-fertility fields, which were sold to them cheaply in the ’70s and ’80s by landowners trying to evade ceiling laws.
In most cases, landowners are supposed to provide irrigation facilities, while sharecroppers are supposed to bear all other costs. In the districts studied, the percentage of crop area under canal irrigation ranged from 4.06 (Jharkhand) to 23.9 (UP); and the percentage of crop area under groundwater and rain irrigation ranged from 3.33 (Chhattisgarh) to 60.45 (UP).
Cash-starved, most sharecroppers try to reduce costs as much as possible. This involves using homegrown paddy as seedlings instead of purchasing high-yield variety seeds, dispensing with diammonium phosphate (DAP, a kind of fertiliser) and using only urea. They do away with pesticides and de-weed manually. This results in reduced productivity but they cannot help it. The sharecropper is left with just about 4 quintals of rice per acre and 3.5 quintals of wheat per acre as his share.
Sharecroppers cannot sell all of their produce; they must retain some of it for their own consumption. Assuming a sharecropper has a family of five, their requirement is about 4 quintals of wheat and 7.2 quintals of rice per annum. If the sharecropper has to be left with any cash at all after his own consumption, he should be working on more than 2 acres of paddy and one acre of wheat.
Assuming that the sharecropper’s entire family works on 5 acres each of paddy and wheat, they can sell the produce grown on 3 acres of paddy and 4 acres of wheat. With the minimum support price of Rs. 1,550 per quintal for paddy and Rs. 1,625 per quintal for wheat, they would get a maximum income of Rs. 41,350 per annum or Rs. 113 per person per day! This income is too low to help them repay any loan, leading to a debt trap and, eventually, suicides.Focus and Factoids compiled by Subuhi Jiwani.
The authors of this study surveyed 13,275 farm households in 59 districts of UP, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Jharkhand. The study’s aim was to determine exactly how much cash small and marginal sharecroppers earn from cultivating paddy and wheat. The authors discovered that after these farmers keep aside some grain for their own consumption, they earn so little from farming that it is essentially an unviable activity.
Dr. N.C. Asthana, R. S. Rai and Priyamvada Asthana