Karnataka polls: Parties woo farmers with sops, but fail to address job worries of rural youth
Bengaluru/Davangere: Baramappa, a 30-year-old from Shanti Nagara (Harapanahalli) in Davangere, about 260 km from Bengaluru, does many jobs including working on others’ fields, cutting sugarcane, hauling farm produce to the market—and anything else he can lay his hands on to make a few extra rupees.
He has land of his own but the odd jobs help increase his contribution to the family’s insufficient agricultural income. His father is a farmer, but Baramappa is not one—he completed a pre-university course but his dreams of further studies were cut short for want of money.
“I do not want to be a farmer as there is no income. But there are no jobs in my district,” he says. The plight is shared by many others in the district. He and others like him have been left out of the efforts of political parties to reach out to the over-seven million farmers of Karnataka in the run-up to the assembly elections due later this year.
The Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government announced minimum support price (MSP) at 1.5 times the production costs in the recent union budget while the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government in Karnataka announced schemes such as Krishi Bhagya and a Rs8,165 crore farm loan waiver—both trying to woo the community with what analysts call “short- term sops”.
Political analysts say that aspirations of the younger generation are not rooted in agriculture but a lack of jobs in other sectors is adding to resentment. “Agriculture is like an allergy to youngsters,” says Maruthi Manapade, vice-president of the Karnataka Prantha Raitha Saugha, an association that represents small farmers in the state. He says farmers educate their children to help them expand their career prospects outside agriculture. “Whoever has no option, continues in agriculture,” Manapade adds.
Himanshu, political analyst and associate professor at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, cites the recent Patel (Gujarat), Jat (Haryana) and Maratha (Maharashtra) agitations—three wealthy communities from relatively prosperous states—over demands for reservation in government jobs and schools as they were finding it difficult to survive on agriculture.
“Even if the population is constant, it would mean that some people (in agriculture) would have become redundant but with population increasing and younger generation, you will it difficult to find employment in the same plot of land,” Himanshu said.
Data from the India Human Development Survey, 2011-12, conducted jointly by the University of Maryland and National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), New Delhi, shows that 63% of the sons born in the 1980s to fathers in any of the three occupations—farmer, agricultural labourer or construction worker—remained in the same occupation while 60% of sons born in the 1980s to teachers, engineers and other professionals were educated till at least the higher-secondary level. However, this proportion is much lower, at 15%, for sons born to agricultural labourers or construction workers.
This is a problem that is not going to go away easily, unless there are enough jobs that allow people to move out of agriculture, Himanshu says, and adds that no political party has made any serious effort to deal with this problem.
“What is happening is something that is very disquieting,” he says, and adds political parties look at such issues only when they flare up or when it’s closer to elections.
In the meantime, Baramappa continues to scout for more part-time jobs, hoping that one day he can ensure the next generation has a better chance than he does.
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