For rural India to be vibrant, the way forward is to address the twin challenges of reviving the dynamism of the farm sector by building its climate resilience and creation of quality employment in non-farm segments.

THE HINDU | PS VIJAYSHANKAR | FEBRUARY 5 2016

PICTURE FROM THE HINDU

The World Bank’s World Development Report 2008 shows that agricultural growth is at least twice as effective in reducing poverty compared to growth originating in non-agricultural sectors. In India, too, 80 per cent of the people officially counted as poor lived in rural India in 2011-12. This means that for making a significant dent in poverty, rural incomes have to grow at a faster rate. The gap between urban and rural consumption levels has increased over the years. Recent studies have shown that despite the spurt in rural incomes between 2005 and 2012 caused by a rise in commodity prices and favourable terms of trade for agriculture, the level of non-farm incomes is at least three times that of farm incomes even today.

The rural economy in its current juncture is a lot less “agricultural” than it used to be earlier. With the fall in the average size of landholding, over 90 per cent of farmers are now in the small and marginal category and they cultivate over 50 per cent of the cropped area. Smallholder farmers are increasingly forced to combine non-farm work with work on their own land. Data from the 68th round of the National Sample Survey (2011-12) show that about 36 million workers have shifted from agriculture to non-agricultural sectors between 2004-05 and 2011-12, meaning that a major part of their income comes from work outside agriculture. On account of this inter-sectoral movement, the share of agriculture in the total workforce has fallen below the 50 per cent mark for the first time after Independence. While this number has been contested, the fact remains that sectors like rural construction are now the sites employing substantial numbers of workers. Given the poor working conditions in these sectors and the overall decline in quality of employment…continue reading

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