A Sad Reality! 40 Percent Farmers Still Bank on Monsoon

For almost 40 percent of the population, agriculture has not changed - it is still dependent on the ‘rain god’, or the South-West monsoon as it is known today.

Here are the facts: about 46 percent of India's net sown area (land on which cultivation is done at least once a year) is irrigated. The balance 54 percent is unirrigated and hence dependent on water that rains down from the clouds, mostly in the four monsoon months.

Back in 1997, a government committee calculated that the Ultimate Irrigation Potential (UIP) for India was about 140 million hectares (Mha). That's the possible extent of irrigation facilities that can be created. How much of this is actually utilized currently? In 2011-12, the net irrigated area was just 65 Mha, as per latest data available with Agriculture Ministry.

Clearly, the single most important input needed by farmers - water - has not been provided for a very large number of farmers leaving them vulnerable to the erratic monsoon. That's why the ancient fear still lurks in these modern times.

Providing irrigation requires huge investment on the part of the government. Private capital is not going to get involved in a significant way because building canals demands long lock-in period for capital and low returns. In recent years, the investment in agriculture grew from 7.5 percent of the investment in the whole economy in 2004-05 to 7.7 percent in 2013-14. Within this, the share of government investment actually declined from 6.7 to 4.7 percent, while private sector share increased from 7.8 to 8.6 percent. The declining government investment in agriculture is the reason behind increasing vulnerability of farmers to water scarcity.