[Land Reforms] Cooperative Farming in India: features, benefits, limitationsDevendra Vishwakarma
- What is cooperative Farming?
- Why Cooperative farming?
- India towards Cooperative Farming
- Cooperative Farming vs Five Year Plans
- Cooperative Farming: Limitations/Epicfail
- Miscalculations and false hopes
- Bogus farms and apathetic bureaucrats
- Free riders
What is cooperative Farming?
Cooperative farming refers to an organisation in which:
- each member-farmer remains the owner of his land individually.
- But farming is done jointly.
- Profit is distributed among the member-farmers in the ratio of land owned by them.
- Wages distributed among the member-farmers according to number of days they worked.
In other words, Cooperative farming= pooling of land and practicing joint agriculture. Cooperative farming is not a new concept in India. Since ancient times, Indian farmers have been giving mutual aid to each other in weeding, harvesting etc. Examples
|Traditional Cooperative Farming System||Region|
Why Cooperative farming?
Because it gives following benefits/advantages/potential:
- Economies of scale:
- As the size of farm increases, the per hectare cost of using tube-well, tractor comes down.
- Small farms=some land is wasted in forming the ‘boundaries’ among them. When they’re combined into a big cooperative farm, we can also cultivate on that boundary land.
- overall, Large farms are economically more beneficial than small farms.
- Solves the problem of sub-division and fragmentation of holdings.
- Cooperative farm has more men-material-money resources to increase irrigation potential and land productivity. Members would not have been able to do it individually on their small farm.
- Case studies generally point out that with cooperative farming, per acre production increases.
India towards Cooperative Farming
|Cooperative Planning Committee’45||
|Economic Program committee’47||headed by Nehru. Recommended that:
|Congress Agrarian Reforms Committee’49||headed by Kumarappa recommended that:
So, this is the first time, someone suggested the State to use “Compulsion” to promote cooperatives.
Cooperative Farming vs Five Year Plans
First Five Year Plan (1951-56)
- Apart from Cooperative farming, it also recommended ‘Cooperative Village Management’ as a more comprehensive solution for rural development.
- Encourage small and middle farmers to form cooperative farming societies
- If majority of farmers agreed to start cooperative farming, then decision will be binding on the entire village.
- But did not talk about giving enforcement powers to States.
- Result? ~2000 cooperative farming societies formed during the First Plan period.
Second Five Year Plan (1956-61)
- 1956: Indian delegations sent to China to study their cooperative farming. Recommended this system in to increase food grain production.
- Develop cooperative farming as soon as possible.
- Target: Setup atleast one cooperative farm in every National Extension Block, or about 5000 for the whole country.
- Hoped to convert substantial proportion of Indian farms into cooperative farming by a period of ten years.
Nagpur resolution of Congress, 1959
- Cooperative farming will be the the future agrarian pattern of India.
- farmers will continue to retain their property rights
- but their land will be pooled for joint cultivation.
- Farmers will get a share in the profit, in proportion to their land.
- Further, those who actually work on the land, will get wages, in proportion of their work-contribution (irrespective of whether they own the land or not.) = in other words, cooperative farming will give employment to landless labourers also. In a way, this was a solution to the #epicfail of land ceiling (because so far governments could not takeover the surplus land from big farmers and redistribute it among landless laborers).
- Start cooperatives related to agro-credit, marketing, seeds-fertilizer etc. Finish this stage within 3 years. Then focus entirely on cooperative farming.
Epicfail of Nagpur resolution
After Nagpur resolution, Many people inside and outside congress, opposed the idea.
|Nehru (clarifies in Parliament)||we’re not going to make any law/act to coerce anyone to start cooperative farming.|
- Later Chinese attack on Tibet and India. Critiques start pointing out how Nehru’s policies are hurting India.
- Recall, earlier we sent delegations to China, to study their cooperative farming system. But now there is Anti-China mood in press and public. Hence, gradually Congress gives up the idea of cooperative farming.
Third Plan (1961-66)
- Observed that nearly 40% of the cooperative farms are not functioning properly.
- Advocated better implementation of community development program, credit societies, agri-marketing etc. for getting success in cooperative farming.
- ~300 pilot projects in selected district. Each project having 10 cooperative societies.
- Overall, Third Five year plan tried to put a brave face, again reaffirming the government’s faith in cooperative farming, but overall, wishful platitude not a plan of action.
Fourth Five Year Plan (1969-74)
- Observed that cooperative farming programs have not made any substantial progress.
- (therefore) It is not been possible to propose any additional programmes for cooperative farming in this Plan
- Instead, we should focus on development of agricultural credit, marketing, processing and consumer needs.
- In co-operative farming, funding priority only for revitalizing of the existing weak societies.
- But avoid setting up new cooperative farming societies, unless they have a potential for growth.
So, overall we can see that by early 70s, Planning commission’s faith/interest in cooperative farming is vanishing.
Fifth Five Year Plan (1974-79)
- Made no mention of cooperative farming.
- It did allot some ca$H under the heading “Cooperation”, but it was only meant for inter-farm co-operative service facilities e.g. seed-fertilizer-water supply, use of tractors/agro-machineries etc.
After this era, five year plans give more attention (and ca$H) to wasteland management, poverty removal etc. and cooperative farming loses its relevance.
Cooperative Farming: Limitations/Epicfail
Miscalculations and false hopes
Early planners and policymakers had hoped that
- Village panchayat and (Congress) party workers will help implementing cooperative farming, but response was lukewarm.
- Cooperative farming = government will have to spend less money on agriculture (+less leakage in subsidies). But the scenario didn’t change.
- During 2nd FYP, the National Development Council proposed that in the next five years agricultural production be increased by 25-35% via cooperative farming. But most state government shied away from taking necessary initiatives.
Bogus farms and apathetic bureaucrats
by and large Cooperative farming societies fell into two categories:
Type#1: by big farmers = bogus farms
- They’d setup bogus cooperative farms by showing agri.labourers/tenants as bogus members. But in reality none of them owned the land individually.
- this was done to evade land ceiling and tenancy reform laws.
- Adding insult to the injury: government even gave them subsidies for seeds, fertilizers etc.
- At times, non-working members had been enrolled in order to fulfil the minimum requirements of registration.
- Even in legit/genuine cooperative farming societies, the rich farmers dominate the management positions.
- Sometimes societies setup with members of just one or two families to get various subsidies/support.
Type#2: by State sponsorship= apathetic bureaucrats
- State sponsored cooperative farms as part of pilot projects under FYP.
- Government would allot land to the landless, SC/ST, Displaced persons etc.
- but they did not get adequate support from government agencies for irrigation, electricity, seeds-fertilizer, extension services etc.
- these farms were run like government-sponsored projects rather than genuine, motivated, joint efforts of the cultivators. Result? These experiments were unsuccessful. No gain in productivity.
- Later, those farmers started cultivating land individual (though on papers, the land continued to be owned by the ‘cooperative societies’.)
#Epicfail in Bihar:
- Cooperative farming societies were formed on Bhoodan land- for the landless labourers.
- But later, they started individual farming, although officially the land still continues to be in the name of the societies.
- Some member-farmers become lazy, thinking why bother when we’ll get the same amount of profit in proportion of the land owned. Just like those free-rider students in MBA/Engineering College who do not contribute anything for the powerpoint projects yet get full credits/marks for being member of the group.
- This demotivated sincere farmers from working hard on such cooperative farms.
- + Entry of idiots with political patronage and caste affiliations entering in cooperative farming activities, with their own vested interests.
- Ultimately, nobody takes interest in the actual farming and entire project turns flop.
Overall, Cooperative farming didn’t grow beyond the government projects and the bogus cooperatives.