Monday Musings: Here’s why this ex-farmer is happy with life in the city
We are all aware that cities such as Pune are expanding at an extraordinary pace- vertically and horizontally- and the civic infrastructure is hardly able to keep pace with this expansion.
While new suburbs and new slums are being created, these outlying suburbs are being forced to depend on the water tanker mafia because the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) is unable to provide piped water to the outlying areas.
Suburbs like Wakad and Hinjewadi have regular power outages stretching between four to eight hours in a day because the power distribution infrastructure of the MSEDCL (Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Corporation Ltd) has not been overhauled and modernised.
Many of the new constructions and new suburbs in the city have slick looking buildings with fancy American and European names but without even proper approach roads, apart from absence of other basic infrastructure.
Thriving cities, of course, boost the economy and generate employment across sectors and social classes. However, are rural areas being neglected in the process?
Take the case of this driver of a plush Toyota Innova car with whom I had an engaging conversation recently. His personal story was rich with insights into the crisis facing Indian agriculture and the urgency with which agriculture needs to be fixed.
It was a re-affirmation of something that I had picked up during previous visits to rural areas: Young people in rural India just don’t want to engage themselves in agriculture. They find the experience depressing, unproductive and un-remunerative and see no future in it. They would rather move to the city, do some menial jobs and earn an assured income. Or, stay back in the village and something less depressing than agriculture.
This young, able-bodied and smartly dressed driver, owner of a 12 acre farm at Jejuri spoke of how his life changed for the better, the moment he gave up farming.
“Farming today is like jugar (gambling). You spend money and put in all your efforts, but if the rains fail, you had it. The farmer goes deep into debt,” said Arun (not his real name), who has studied up to class 10.
While input costs of agriculture keep rising (such as the cost of seeds, fertilisers and insecticides), if the markets crash, the cost of produce also crashes. “There have been many occasions when I have dumped my tempo-load of green leafy vegetables by the roadside because the traders would not offer anything more than one rupee per gaddi (bunch),” he said. In good times, he would get as much as Rs. 10 per bunch.
Arun said that villagers no longer want to give their daughters in marriage to farmers. “They prefer someone who has a stable income.” At the same time, they also want these youths to own some land so that if the job fails he can go back to farming.
Thus, there are nearly a hundred bachelors in his village who are around 28 years old and still bachelors, he laughed.
In his own case, Arun got a bride almost four years after he had quit farming and got a job in Pune. He is now a weekend farmer with a stable city income. In fact, his land is quite close to the proposed international airport at Purandhar and he is hopeful that his farm produce and allied activities will see better days once the airport becomes a reality.
This, however, cannot be the reality for all our farmers, who are in a state of desperation. They need help. Not cosmetic measures such as farm loan waivers.