India’s Shrinking Farmland and the Migration to Cities

Acerage TrendIndia and US trends in acreage per farm plot are opposite. Farms in the US are getting larger while those in India are shrinking. Consolidation lends to economies of scale, higher mechanization rates and therefore greater productivity and profits per acre. Farmers in the US are experimenting with big data, information analytics with farmers showing as much interest in selling the data from their farms as much as their crops. Farmers in India, on the other hand, are contemplating ending their lives adding to the big bigger data points on farmer suicide statistics – at least some of them kill themselves each year. The rate however is not as alarming as it is made out to be. More people die of suicides outside of the farms. I am sure depression kills more in our cities but farmers attract attention.

India Farm Size ShrinkageThe chart above shows the general shrinkage of farm sizes across the India. The average size of farmland in India has fallen from 2.28 hectares in 1970-’71 to 1.16 hectares in 2010-’11. Punjab is an exception. If you want to sell tractors and motor pumps and pvc pipes, this is the place to hang your shingle. Increased mechanization and dwindling farm incomes forced many small farmers to quit farming, migrate to Kanaada leading to a consolidation of farmlands. In almost every other state, there is a shrinkage. It is no doubt a consequence of
increasing pressure on the land due to an ever expanding population. With lower farm plots (i.e. capital) and the low productivity rates, it is impossible for the farm incomes (return on capital) to be enough to feed the stomachs aspirations of all the strapping young village gabrus hanging around in the hinterland. Kerala and Bihar are the two states with the lowest average acreage per chhath_train_71113 [httppost.jagran.com]farm plot. It is not surprising that the villagers from these states are most likely to be found migrating to other parts of the country in search of work. Trains are best avoided during annual jaunts like the Chhath Puja when all the itinerant workers head back to their native places to take the traditional early morning dip in obeisance to the sun who no longer shines on their farms as it once used to.

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