As several issues concerning the farming community continue to surface with the passage of time, there is a need for the formation of self help groups, say experts from Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) and Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (GADVASU).
Such groups can adress the concerns of the farmers such as stress and fund management.
It is pertinent to mention here that following the culmination of wheat season recently, many farmers from various pockets of the state committed suicide due to stress and financial crisis. Experts say farmers take such a step when they find no support from anyone, even in their native village.
Rajinder Kaur Kalra, head of extension education, PAU, who went to Australia in 2011 for six months to study self help groups in agriculture sector through an international merit scholarship, said before going there, she had studied the status of similar groups in Punjab but when it comes to comparison, such groups stand nowhere in Punjab despite having several benefits. “The current scenario of self help groups in Punjab is not encouraging. It should not be ignored by the farmers and village panchyats. If farmers with similar interests get united, they can successfully face problems and can also approach government for help. In a group, everyone has a say,” she stressed.
“In Australia and other developed countries, farmer associations are very active and in every village they play a strong role to help and support one another. Moreover, it also fortifies the strength of farmers to raise voice for their demands and rights. If they feel government has taken decision against them, they can also use their unity in such a situation to raise their concern,” added Kalra.
While talking to HT, Harish Verma, director of extension education, GADVASU, said that gricultural universities keep training farmers to form groups and help each other in all situations. He said, “Farmers must understand that one person cannot handle various chores so a group should have 10 to 12 members to ensure that no one suffers economically in any season. Setting rules and organising meetings should be a must where all kinds of issues must be discussed,” he highlighted.
District chief agricultural officer Sukhpal Singh Sekhon accepts that self help groups are not popular among farmers in Punjab and it can be one of the reasons why farmers feel lonely and fail to handle the stress of inflation, debts and other issues. “As per my knowledge, in Ludhiana district alone just 10 to 12 groups are active. We also formed several groups but it has been noted that most of the groups break up after a few months or years due to lack of unity. At times, ego plays a spoilsport. Now, we should encourage ourselves to be united and face all the issues with unity and strength,” underlined Sekhon.
Meanwhile, Punjab chief minister (CM) Parkash Singh Badal and agriculture minister Tota Singh too have several times recommended the formation of self help groups by farmers.
Benefits of self help groups
Strengthen farmers' voice for their rights
Provide moral support during crisis
Can make their voice heard by government
How to go about it
At least 10 or 12 likeminded members should be there
Regular meetings for all issues
Set rules and regulations of a group
Counsel depressed members
Leader should be experienced and a progressive farmer