Land and profits bumped up: Unravelling Modi govt’s farm fables in Bihar, UP and Haryana

The ICAR published a book on 75,000 farmers whose income had doubled. A visit to villages in Bihar, UP and Haryana suggests otherwise.

WrittenBy:Anmol Pritam& Basant Kumar
Date:
Cartoon of Modi with a long nose tilling a field.

If the Indian Council of Agricultural Research is to be believed, the Madhepura district in Bihar’s maize hub has at least 70 farmers who have doubled their income with successful policy interventions between 2016-17 and 2020-21. 

But if you dig deeper, the numbers shrink, replaced instead by familiar complaints of farm distress. 

The first instalment of this series had reported on how a booklet published by the government institute ICAR – to mark 75 years of Independence, and to validate PM Narendra Modi’s promise to double farm income by 2022 with 75,000 “success stories” – belied the realities on ground in Maharashtra. 

In the second instalment, The News Minute met farmers from the five southern states – Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana – and heard from many of them on how the claims about them in the ICAR report are either completely false or massively exaggerated.

In this part, Newslaundry visited Kolwa and Sahugarh villages of Madhepura’s Shankarpur block to find a new series of data distortions within the 4,279 case studies from Bihar that find a mention in the ICAR booklet. Among these were a farmer without land, another who grows potatoes only for personal consumption, and one who accused an ICAR unit of ruining his ridge gourds with a wrong pesticide. 

‘Don’t own an inch’

Watering a chilli farm in Sahugarh, Rajesh Kumar, a 35-year-old farmer, named among three success stories from his village, said, “I do not own an inch of agricultural land.”

According to the ICAR booklet, his net income rose to Rs 3,15,000 by farming paddy, wheat, maize, brinjal and cauliflowers during that period on his four acres of land, and through livestock management. But Rakesh said he has only two acres of land, on lease, which costs him a rent of Rs 40,000 per annum – crucial details he says are missing from the ICAR calculations.

His wife Sunita Devi points to the couple’s thatched house and says it’s the “only land we own”. “We can manage to earn Rs 1 lakh per year, but sometimes it’s difficult to recover the costs due to the weather…Why would we live here if we were earning this much?”

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