High Land Lease Rates Affecting The Malwa Farmers
Even as crops offer diminishing returns to farmers, lease rentals on farmland in Punjab’s Malwa region continue to remain 25-30 per cent higher than Doaba and Majha, forcing farmers into a debt trap they find hard to escape. The region, which has 14 out of 22 districts of the state, has also seen 90 per cent of total farmer suicides in Punjab in the last two decades.
A large number of marginal, small and semi-medium farmers across the state cultivate land on lease. While lease rentals in Malwa are Rs 50,000 to 60000 per acre, they are between Rs 35,000 to 45,000 per acre in Doaba and Majha regions, barring a few exceptions.
According to records from office of Additional Chief Secretary (Revenue), total 2632 farmers committed suicides in Punjab in the past two decades and over 90 per cent of these suicides were from Punjab’s Malwa region — mostly from Mansa, Sangrur, Bathinda, Barnala, Mukatsar, Patiala, Ludhiana districts. Farmers suicides so far in 2017 have shown the same trend.
“In Malwa, south of Sutlej river and the main cotton belt of Punjab, lease rentals in some areas go as high as Rs 60,000 to Rs 65000 per acre, while the income from one acre is not more than Rs 65,000 to 75,000. In such conditions what is a farmer left with,” said Mukesh Malaudh, the Sangrur district president of Zameen Prapati Sangharsh Committee (ZPSC), which has been fighting to bring down lease rates.
General Secretary of Punjab Khet Mazdoor (PKM) Union, Lachhaman Singh Sewewala, said: “Whether crop is good or bad, the average rent rate per acre in Malwa remains Rs 50,000 to 60,000 per acre, which is very high comparatively.” He said that farmers take loan from institutional and non-institutional organisations to pay the rent and keep land with them. The government must come up with a law to define land rentals against income.
“When rent is almost equal to the earning, farmers would go under debt as apart from rent, they put money in the form of seeds, fertilisers, labour, pesticides etc. The rent must be controlled,” said a senior officer at PAU, Ludhiana.