BHUBANESWAR: The Odisha Government, which is in the midst of bringing a tenancy reforms law, has little clue about the exact status of its farmer population.
If information furnished by Agriculture and Farmers’ Empowerment Department is any indication, the number of farmers could be 46 lakh, 41 lakh or even 32 lakh. The Agricultural Census of the State Government shows that the total number of cultivators in the State stood at 32.79 lakh in 2010-11 while population of farm labourers was 24.20 lakh.
In 2000-01, the cultivators number was 12.73 lakh while the agri-labourers’ population was 10.68 lakh. The figure remained unchanged in 2005-06 which meant in next five years, there was 20 lakh jump in farmers’ population and 14 lakh rise in number of farm labourers.
This is also the information Agriculture and Farmers’ Empowerment Minister Pradeep Maharathy provided in reply to a question from BJP MLA Dilip Ray in the Assembly earlier this month. However, information furnished by the department last year gives a completely different picture. It had pegged the farmers’ population in the State at 46.67 lakh in the 2010-11 agri census.
The numbers showed that there were 33.68 lakh marginal, 9.18 lakh small, 3.74 lakh medium and 5,574 big farmers in the State. The same information had also quoted the 2005-06 census which put the farmers’ number at 43.56 lakh. The Odisha Economic Survey 2015-16, meanwhile, throws up another figure. It pegs the total number of cultivators at 41.04 lakh whereas farm workers’ figure is a staggering 67.4 lakh out of the total workers’ population of 175.42 lakh.
The survey also says cultivators constitute 23.4 per cent of the total workers whereas farm labourers are about 38 per cent of the total. Interestingly, a similar query posed to the Agriculture Minister in April had elicited a different answer. Asked what is the number of sharecroppers in the State, the Minister stated that he could not furnish the details since the matter did not pertain to the Agriculture and Farmers’ Empowerment Department.
Currently, the Revenue and Disaster Management Department is finalising the tenancy reforms law which aims at providing agreement between sharecroppers and land owners to secure the economic conditions of farmers. The law is awaiting nod of the State Cabinet.