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Overview of Agricultural Labour

06-NOV-2015 15:49

    The first Agricultural Labour Enquiry Committee of 1950-51 regarded those people as agricultural workers who were engaged in raising crops on payment of wages. Since in India, a large number of workers do not work against payment of wages all the year round, this definition was incomplete. Accordingly, the Committee laid down that those people should be regarded as agricultural workers who worked for 50 per cent or more days on payment of wages.

    The Second Agricultural Labour Enquiry Committee of 1956-57 took a broad view of agricultural activities to include those workers also who were engaged in allied activities like animal husbandry, dairy, poultry, piggery, etc. The Second Committee submitted that to know whether a household is an agricultural labour household we must examine its main source of income. If 50 per cent or more of its income is derived as wages for work rendered in agriculture, only then it could be classified as agricultural labour household. The changeover from 'work' to 'income' seems more scientific.

    Categories of Agricultural Labourers

    The First Agricultural Labour Enquiry Committee had classified agricultural workers into two categories: (i) attached labourers, and (ii) casual labourers. Attached labourers are attached to some cultivator household on the basis of a written or oral agreement. Their employment is permanent and regular.

    All workers not falling in the category of attached labourers, constitute casual workers. They are free to work on the farm of any farmer and payment is generally made to them on a daily basis.

    Growth & Decline in the Number of Agricultural Workers:

    The class of agricultural workers did not exist in India before the advent of Britishers. Sir Thomas Munroe had stated in 1842 that there was not a single landless laborer in India.

    Latest details from Census of India (2011) report released paint a bleak picture of Indian agriculture. It rings the alarm on an agrarian crisis—the number of farmers has dipped by over 8.6 million in the past decade. It also disproves critics who have been crying hoarse about shortage in agricultural labour—the data shows more than 37 million people have taken to farm labour in the past ten years.

    The census details were released by Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde in the presence of the registrar general of India and census commissioner C Chandramouli in Delhi. The statistics show that only 54.6 per cent of total workers in India are now part of the agriculture sector with a decline of 3.6 per cent as compared to 2001.

    Compared to 2001 census, there has been increase of 44 per cent in the male population of agricultural labourers, while for females the number has increased by 24.5 per cent. Chandramouli attributes this rise in agricultural labour to the falling size of land holdings over time. The trends for farming show those 14 per cent women and 3.2 per cent of cultivators since 2001 have abandoned farming. This extrapolates to over 8.6 million people. Interestingly, the census office claims that over the past 50 years, the decline in population of cultivators was not significant enough for absolute numbers when compared to population increase.

    As per the census of 2011, 263 million people are engaged in the agriculture sector and over half of them are now agricultural labourers, a trend observed for the first time in the past 40 years.

    Types of Agricultural Labourers

    Agricultural labourers can be broadly divided into family labourers, hired labourers and bonded labourers.

    Family Labourer

    This category belongs to small farmers who are not financially sound to hire labour. Small farmers are hire labour during peak seasons such as transplanting, weeding and harvesting. When labour is required in abundance and the operations have got be completed in a short period of time.

    Hired Labourer

    Hired labour can further be categorised in two groups; casual labour and attached labour. Attached workers who are more or less in continuous employment, are under some sort of contract with the employers during the period of employment, while casual workers are employed from time to time according to the existence of work. Casual labourers are employed on daily wages for particular operations which lasts only for a short period. While attached workers are often employed on contract, mostly oral contract, extending over a longer period that is quarterly, half yearly or yearly. The wages of attached labourers are generally lower than those of casual labourers who are employed on piece work basis.

    Bonded Labourer

    There is also a special class of agricultural labour called the 'bonded labour' who are at the bottom of agricultural ladder in India. The prominent feature of this system is that a man pledges himself or sometimes a member of his family against a loan. Inability to pay back the loan results in the attachment of that person to the creditor till such time when the loan is finally paid.

    Causes of Growth in the Number of Agricultural Labourers

    1. Increase in population: Rising population is causing load on the agriculture because the numbers of dependent persons increase while size of land remains same.
    2. Decline of cottage industries and village handicrafts. There was a rapid decline of cottage industries and village handicrafts during the British period, but modem industries were not set up to take their place. These people were forced to seek employment as agricultural workers in the" countryside.
    3. Uneconomic holdings. The process of subdivision and fragmentation of holdings has continued unabated for a long period of time. This has rendered a large number of holdings uneconomic.
    4. Increase in indebtedness. The moneylenders and mahajans often advance loans with the purpose of grabbing the land of small farmers. They adopt various malpractices like charging exorbitant rates of interest, manipulating accounts, etc., and once the small and marginal farmers fall into their trap, it becomes very difficult for them to get out.
    5. Spread of the use of money and exchange system. Whereas, previously land was often given to the tenants to cultivate (from whom landlords obtained rent in the form of a portion of the produce), the present practice is to employ agricultural workers to do the job. These workers are paid wages.

    Now the million dollar question is that those who are producing liquor, those who are producing, Gutkha/ pan Masala/Cigarettes and other injurious products all are billionaire then why those are feeding the whole world are counted among the poorest people in the whole world?

    DISCLAIMER: JPL and its affiliates shall have no liability for any views, thoughts and comments expressed on this article.

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