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Daily News Analysis


8th July, 2023 Economy

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Context: The Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA) work on an early warning system called ‘farmers distress index’ is in the final stages and the index will be handed over to the central government in the next two-three months.


  • In 2022, the Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA), an institution under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) started working on a kind of early warning system called ‘farmers distress index’, a first of its kind for India. The work is in the final stages and the index will be handed over to the central government in the next two-three months.

What is the farmers’ distress index?

  • The farmers’ distress index is a tool that measures the level of hardship and suffering faced by farmers due to various factors such as climate change, crop failure, price volatility, and income loss.
  • The index aims to minimise the agrarian distress that often leads to farmer suicides by providing early warning signals to different actors, such as the central, state, and local governments, as well as non-governmental organisations, about the possibility of farmer distress in a specific block or district.
    • This way, they can take proactive steps to prevent or mitigate the distress before it affects a large number of farmers.

What are the benefits of the index?

  • The index will help in identifying the areas and regions that are most vulnerable to farmers’ distress and will enable timely and targeted interventions by various agencies.
  • It will help in monitoring the effectiveness of various schemes and policies that aim to mitigate farmers’ distress and enhance their resilience.
  • It will provide a basis for research and analysis on the causes and consequences of farmers’ distress and its impact on rural development and food security.


  • The index will use multiple sources of data to identify and monitor signs of farmers' distress in different regions. The first step is to collect information from local newspapers, news platforms and social media platforms about any incidents related to farmers' distress, such as debt repayment problems, suicides, pest attacks, droughts, floods, migration, etc.
  • The next step is to conduct phone interviews with marginal and small farmers or tenant farmers from the affected areas. The interviews will consist of 21 standardized questions that will assess the early signs of distress based on 7 indicators:
    • Exposure to droughts, floods, crop failure due to pest attacks, and livestock deaths.
    • Debt Burden
    • Adaptive capacity of farmers and local government through different schemes.
    • Landholding and irrigation facilities.
    • Sensitivity, mitigation and adaptation strategies like growing contingency crops if the main crop fails.
    • Triggers for immediate distress like health-related expenditure.
    • Socio-psychological factors and impacts.
  • The index will assign a score between 0 and 1 to each farmer. A score of 0 means no distress, while a score of 1 means extreme distress. A score between 0 and 0.5 indicates low distress, between 0.5 and 0.7 indicates moderate distress, and above 0.7 indicates severe distress.


  • The index will show which aspect of farming is causing the most distress for each farmer. This will help to identify the specific problems and solutions for different farmers.
  • The index is being developed as a mobile or desktop application that can be used by various stakeholders such as the central government, state governments, agriculture departments, rural development departments, agriculture universities, non-profits and civil society organisations. They can use the index to access the data of local farmers and provide them with appropriate support and interventions.
  • The index will be used to inform different agencies that can intervene to protect farmers from income shocks due to various factors. Some of the possible solutions that are being considered are direct cash transfers, early release of payments under the government's crop insurance scheme (Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, PMFBY) in case of crop losses, providing employment opportunities under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, increasing food rations under Public Distribution System, and so on. These measures may help reduce farmers' distress.
    • For example, if the index indicates that there is a high risk of severe distress in the near future, then the government can provide temporary relief under the PMFBY scheme, instead of waiting for a full survey to be done.

The index is still under development by CRIDA and will be handed over to the central government once it is completed.

Farmers' Distress in India

  • Farmers' distress in India is a complex and multifaceted problem that has been affecting the livelihoods and well-being of millions of farmers for decades.

Main causes of farmers' distress include:

Poor policy and planning

  • The government has not paid enough attention to improving farmers' income and welfare but rather focused on increasing agricultural output and food security. This has led to policies that do not address the needs and problems of farmers, such as inadequate support prices, subsidies, procurement and storage facilities.

Declining average size of farm holdings

  • Due to various factors, such as population growth, land fragmentation, urbanization and inheritance laws, the average land holding per farmer has decreased by more than half in the last four decades. This reduces the economies of scale and profitability of farming and makes it harder for farmers to invest in inputs and technology.

Dependence on rainfall and climate

  • A large proportion of India's cropped area depends on rainfall for irrigation, making it susceptible to droughts, floods, heat waves and other extreme weather events that affect crop production and quality. Climate change is also expected to worsen the situation by altering the patterns and intensity of rainfall and temperature.

Collapsing farm prices

  • Farmers often do not get fair prices for their produce due to low global prices, cheaper imports, lack of market infrastructure and profiteering by middlemen. This reduces their income and increases their debt burden.

Lack of easy credit and insurance

  • Farmers face difficulties in accessing formal credit sources and crop insurance schemes, forcing them to rely on informal money lenders who charge exorbitant interest rates. This traps them in a cycle of debt and distress and makes them vulnerable to shocks and uncertainties.

Lack of mechanization and technology

  • Farmers have limited access to modern machinery, inputs, information and extension services that can improve their productivity and efficiency. They also face constraints in adopting new technologies due to high costs, risks, knowledge gaps and social norms.

Crop losses due to pests and diseases

  • Farmers incur heavy losses due to pest infestations and disease outbreaks that damage their crops and reduce their yields. They also lack adequate preventive and curative measures to control these threats.


Reduced income and increased poverty

  • The farmers have faced low and unstable returns from their crops, which has lowered their income levels and pushed many of them into poverty. They have also lost their bargaining power and access to credit and markets.

Suicides and distress

  • The financial and psychological stress caused by the agrarian crisis has resulted in a high number of farmers' suicides, particularly among the small and marginal farmers who have higher debts and lower resilience.

Disinterest and migration

  • The lack of profitability and prospects in farming has made many farmers, especially the young ones, lose interest in agriculture and migrate to other sectors or regions in search of better opportunities.

Food insecurity and malnutrition

  • The fall in agricultural output and income has compromised the food security and nutrition of rural households, especially the women and children who are more vulnerable to hunger and malnutrition.

Steps taken by the government

  • Implementing the recommendations of the National Commission on Farmers (NCF), which include increasing the minimum support prices (MSPs) for crops, expanding the coverage of crop insurance, enhancing irrigation facilities, promoting diversification and value addition, etc.
  • Increasing the minimum support price (MSP) for various crops to ensure remunerative prices for the farmers.
  • Launched the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) scheme to provide direct income support of Rs 6,000 per year to small and marginal farmers.
  • Implementing the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) to cover crop losses due to natural calamities, pests and diseases.
  • Expanding the coverage of the Kisan Credit Card (KCC) scheme provides easy and timely access to credit at low-interest rates.
  • Promoting the formation of farmer-producer organizations (FPOs), which enable collective bargaining power and better market linkages for the farmers.
  • Strengthening the agricultural infrastructure and marketing through schemes such as the Agriculture Infrastructure Fund, the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) and the e-NAM platform.

Way forward

  • Strengthening the institutional framework for agricultural development, such as improving the functioning of Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs), establishing farmer producer organizations (FPOs), enhancing the role of cooperatives, etc.
  • Promoting sustainable and climate-resilient agriculture, such as adopting organic farming, agroforestry, integrated pest management, etc., to reduce input costs, conserve natural resources, enhance soil health and biodiversity, etc.
  • Enhancing access to information and technology, such as using digital platforms, mobile applications, satellite imagery, etc., to provide timely and accurate information on weather, markets, prices, inputs, etc., to farmers.
  • Developing a comprehensive Farmers' Distress Index (FDI) that can measure the level and dimensions of distress among farmers at different spatial scales and help in identifying the most vulnerable groups and regions for targeted interventions.


  • Farm distress in India is a complex and multifaceted issue that requires urgent attention and action. To address the challenges, the government and other stakeholders need to adopt a holistic and participatory approach that involves farmers, civil society, the private sector, and academia. Some of the possible solutions are enhancing crop insurance and social security schemes, promoting crop diversification and agroecology, strengthening farmer-producer organizations and cooperatives, improving rural infrastructure and connectivity, and ensuring fair and remunerative prices for farm produce. By implementing these measures, India can ensure the well-being and dignity of its farmers and achieve food security and sustainable development for all.

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Q. What are the main causes and consequences of farm distress in India, and what steps have been taken by the government to address this issue? What are some of the suggestions for improving the situation of farmers in the future?